The report of the sub-committee on penal reform was released this week following public hearings, invited submissions and fact-finding trips to Irish prisons as well abroad to observe the penal estate in Finland. The sub-committee, established in 2011 with the brief of analysing the report of the Thornton Hall Project Review Group, is chaired by David Stanton, TD, and looked at broader issues of back-door strategies of early release, as well as the ‘pernicious’ issue of over-crowding throughout the Irish system.
Five clear recommendations were put forward:
- Reduce prison numbers by one-third over a 10-year period
- Commute prison sentences of less than six months
- Increase standard remission from one-quarter to one-third and introduce a incentivised remission scheme of up to one-half
- Introduce legislation providing for structured release, temporary release, parole and community return
- Address prison conditions and over-crowding; and increase the use of open prisons
Overall, a comprehensive ‘decarceration’ strategy has been proposed, to be implemented and to effect a real improvement within a time-frame of 10 years.
Liam Herrick, of the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT), welcomed the cross-party approach to penal reform, which provides hope for the future of a radically de-politicised criminal just policy. He also cautioned against the creeping expansionism currently evident, and argued that while new accommodation was preferable, it must be also be considered that unsuitable places of detention should be closed.
Read the IPRT response here.
In the media:
Dearbhail McDonald in the Irish Independent
Ruadhan Mac Cormaic in the Irish Times
Senator Ivana Bacik writes of her role in the report and outlines the key recommendations in the Irish Independent.