With the numbers of prisoners increasing over the years, Government must ensure we have adequate capacity to keep our communities, prisoners, and prison guards safe, according to a Fine Gael TD.
Deputy Neale Richmond said, “In order to keep our communities and our prisons safe, it is vital that our justice system is operational in full.
“In order to do so, we must ensure that we have sufficient capacity in our prisons to ensure they are safe environments for inmates, but also to ensure our communities are kept safe with justice brought to criminals as soon as possible.
“Currently, Ireland has over 3,980 people in prison custody, with the World Prison Brief estimating Ireland’s prisons are currently operating at 90.7% capacity.
“While not yet meeting our prison capacity, the numbers in custody are on the rise. With an increase of 44% from 2,763 in 1999, to 3,971 in 2019, we need to ensure that the capacity is secured.
“With Minister for Justice Helen McEntee bringing forward reforms to ensure that we have stronger sentences for serious crimes, we must have sufficient capacity in our prisons to ensure capacity is not a factor when deciding sentences.
“The safety of our communities must come first, and this is recognised by Minister McEntee, who has confirmed that there will be 220 new prison spaces opened by the end of the year.
“While this is an important and very welcome first step, any increase in prison capacity must be maintained and monitored to ensure that overcrowding does not arise in the future.
“Overcrowded prisons put prisoners and our Prison Officers at risk and negatively impacts efforts to encourage rehabilitation of convicted criminals.
“With the Irish Prison Services Capital Strategy for 2023 pending, we must do all we can to ensure that there is sufficient capacity in our prisons, allowing people to feel safe in their homes and communities across Ireland.
“Fine Gael is committed to building stronger and safer communities across Ireland. The Government must now make prison capacity a priority, to ensure Minister McEntee can achieve our goal of keeping communities safe – but also to ensure the wellbeing of prisoners and staff within our prisons,” Deputy Richmond concluded.