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Connolly, Johnny (2012) Social exclusion and crime. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 41, Spring 2012, p. 23.

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A position paper by the Irish Penal Reform Trust highlights the causative connection between social exclusion, deprivation and crime.1 The paper argues that marginalised communities are more heavily policed and that those from such communities receive more severe punishment than those from more affluent communities. It also argues that cuts to community-based services will exacerbate crime rates. Speaking at the launch of the paper, Liam Herrick, director of the IPRT, stated:2 

Austerity measures which see cuts to health, education and other key services impact disproportionately on marginalized communities… increasing levels of social exclusion which will have a negative impact on crime.
Other speakers who addressed the launch, which was jointly organised by the IPRT and Community Platform (www.communityplatform.ie), included John Lonergan, former governor of Mountjoy Prison and a patron of the IPRT, Kathleen Lynch, professor of equality studies at University College Dublin, Tony Geoghegan, chief executive of Merchants Quay Ireland, Orla O’Connor, head of policy at the National Women's Council of Ireland and Brid O’Brien of the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed.
The paper explores the social profile of prisoners and the ‘specific ways in which the criminal law is unduly focused on marginalised groups’ (p.9). The IPRT calls for the cessation of the practice of imprisonment for non-payment of fines, citing research which found that ‘fine defaulters had an 85% likelihood of returning to prison after release’ (p.9). The paper is also critical of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 2011, which prohibits some forms of begging, describing it as ‘a regressive legislative measure, which unduly penalises the most vulnerable members of society’ (p.11). The paper highlights the links between substance misuse and crime and is critical of the recent budgetary cuts for projects in drugs task force areas (p.17). With regard to the reintegration of offenders upon release from prison, the paper calls for adequate resources to be applied to Integrated Sentence Management so that prisoners are adequately prepared for their release, ‘receiving assistance with accommodation, mental health and/or addiction supports’ (p.18).
Highlighting the fact that ‘Ireland is the only EU state without spent convictions legislation’,2 the IPRT calls for the speedy enactment of the proposed Spent Convictions Bill so that individuals convicted of minor criminal offences can be aided in their attempt to reintegrate back into society (p.20). The IPRT also highlights the disproportionate way in which offenders of different socio-economic backgrounds are treated by the Irish criminal justice system. According to Herrick, ‘That we continue to imprison thousands of people every year for not paying fines, while those involved in “white collar” crime remain largely unpunished, further underscores Ireland’s disproportionate punishment of some sections of society.’ 2
The paper forms part of the IPRT’s Shifting Focus campaign (www.iprt.ie/shifting-focus), which uses evidence and research to support its call for a movement away from traditional criminal justice responses to issues of social exclusion and associated crime and to demonstrate to policy makers that such a shift, ‘– with emphasis on prevention and early intervention – makes social and economic sense’.2
1. Irish Penal Reform Trust (2012) The vicious circle of social exclusion and crime: Ireland’s disproportionate punishment of the poor. IPRT Position Paper 9. Dublin: IPRT. www.iprt.ie/position-papers
2. Irish Prison Reform Trust (2012) Punishing cuts to prevention services will exacerbate unfairness of criminal justice system. Press release issued by the Irish Penal Reform Trust, 2 February 2012. www.iprt.ie/contents/2279
Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
All substances
Intervention Type
Crime prevention
Issue Title
Issue 41, Spring 2012
April 2012
Page Range
p. 23
Health Research Board
Issue 41, Spring 2012
Accession Number
HRB (Electronic Only)

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