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Rabitte, Pat and Bacik, Ivana (2011) A fair and effective penal system. Dublin: Labour Party.

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Irish prisons are costly, overcrowded and ineffective. Our prison population has almost doubled in a decade and is increasing at the rate of 10% each year. The average cost of providing a prison space in 2009 was €79,307, yet the latest figure show that the numbers of prisoners sentenced to three months or less is rising. And as the numbers increase, the prisons are even more dangerous and less effective. Almost 60% of all prisoners now share cells intended for single occupancy. Many still have to slop out their night waste and many are locked up for most of the day and night. And even with this overcrowding, our system is also among the most expensive prison systems (per person) in the world.

It ought to be clear that we cannot continue like this.

It will remain a fact of life that for some offenders there is no alternative to imprisonment. Undoubtedly, those engaged in serious criminal activity, and persons convicted of crimes of violence and offences against the person must be imprisoned to protect society. However, there are hundreds of people who enter our prisons because public policy has shown minimal interest in devising alternatives to imprisonment. Instead, more and tougher-sounding criminal laws have become the standard response Yet it is evident that "throwing legislation at the problem" is not working - and that re-offending rates remain high.

Generally Labour is not in favour of extending mandatory sentencing. In general, Labour favours judicial discretion over sentencing, but we want to see legislation introduced to guide sentencing practice and ensure greater consistency, while protecting the independence of the judiciary. Given the prevalence of very short sentences, we particularly want to see substantive reform of District Court sentencing practice. We also seek to address in this paper the area of youth justice, not only because of the devastating effect of crime and detention upon young people, but also because it is critical if we are to tackle the scourge of anti-social behaviour.

We believe that the measures proposed will enhance the effectiveness, the fairness and the justice of our penal system and will contribute significantly towards a fairer, safer and more secure society.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte, Senator Ivana Bacik

Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Report
Drug Type
All substances
Intervention Type
Crime prevention, Policy
12 p.
Labour Party
Place of Publication
Accession Number
HRB (Electronic Only)
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