Change in prison culture needed

25 April 2024
  • Overcrowding, drug abuse, attacks worsening

Labour’s Justice Spokesperson Aodhán Ó Riordáin TD was today reacting to reports from the Prison Officers’ Association that problems in prisons are getting worse.

Deputy Ó Riordáin said

“We are witnessing a system overwhelmed by overcrowding, drug abuse, and escalating violence against officers. Prison authorities have been vocal about how pointless 4 month sentences are and the numbers of people in prison with addiction and mental health challenges and this must be addressed.

“This dire situation underscores the urgent need for a fundamental change in approach to our justice system. Our prison system is currently not working to prevent re-offending, to protect victims of crime or to keep society safe. Instead, it is marked by pernicious overcrowding. 

“This has had a knock-on effect on prison conditions. I’ve visited Mountjoy on a number of occasions in the last few years myself. Prison conditions generally were poor with huge overcrowding problems and inadequate conditions. 

“Under Fine Gael’s watch for 13 years, there has been a staggering failure to recognise prisoners as individuals in need of support and rehabilitation. The approach of building more prisons, advocated by Fine Gael and Minister McEntee, is a misguided attempt to address symptoms rather than root causes.

“We have seen a persistent disregard for expert recommendations advocating for community-based sanctions over incarceration. It is time for Fine Gael to wake up and heed the overwhelming evidence that prison should be a last resort, with greater emphasis on rehabilitation and reducing re-offending rates.

“We call on Government to prioritise comprehensive reform, focus on rehabilitation and community-based solutions. Additionally, there must be a role for the judiciary to be more connected with the realities of prison life so that they fully understand the impact of their judgements. We cannot afford to perpetuate a broken system that only serves to further harm individuals and our community. It’s time for urgent action. “


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