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State must move away from short sentences that don’t work for victims and ex-offenders – Carroll MacNeill

31st August 2022 - Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, TD

The State must move away from imposing short custodial sentences to a more victim friendly approach and to afford ex-offenders a greater opportunity at rehabilitation, according to Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill was speaking after Cabinet approved the Review of Policy Options for Prison and Penal Reform 2022-2024 aimed at creating a safer and fairer society.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill, Fine Gael’s equality spokesperson and Vice Chair of the Oireachtas Justice Committee, said: “I welcome today’s publication of the Review of Policy Options for Prison and Penal Reform 2022-2024, which is focused on a more effective approach to the rehabilitation of offenders and their reintegration into society with the aim of reducing crime and keeping communities safe.

“A key aspect of the review is reducing the use of short custodial sentences, especially sentences under three months, and exploring how the judiciary can be provided with a greater range of non-custodial sanctions.

“The bottom line is that short sentences do not work for victims, they don’t work for ex and low level offenders, and they don’t work from a State perspective when it comes to value for money due to a huge drain on prison and staff resources.

“The review contains six priority actions, which includes consideration of the incorporation of prison as a sanction of last resort in statute, in relation to people who do not pose a risk of serious harm.

“Another priority is the development and expansion of community- based sanctions, including alternatives to imprisonment to reduce re-offending and overcrowding in our prisons.

“As Co-Chair of the Oireachtas Group on Penal Reform, I have visited the Dochas Centre and Limerick Prison to meet staff and prisoners. I also recently organised a conference for former women prisoners in Leinster House.

“What they have told me is that short custodial sentences do not work, there is no rehabilitative therapy provided or entry into a programme to re-enter the labour force.

“More often than not, former prisoners end up back in the same situation they were in before their first offence, with some women going back into an abusive situation or circumstances where their risk of reoffending and ending up in a custodial setting again is greater.

“There were over 6,000 committal assessments last year which requires every inmate to undergo physical and psychological examinations, despite there being under 4,000 people in prison custody on average in Ireland.

“This requires time and resources which is redirected away from other areas such as rehabilitative programmes, such as adult education, jobs skills courses and mental health services.

“Fine Gael is the party of law and order and our mission is to build stronger, safer communities. This involves having a penal system that is fit for purpose and requires significant investment in An Garda Síochána and crime prevention strategies.”

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