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Thursday, February 4, 2010


Short and unnecessary prison sentences a waste of time and money

Speaking in the Seanad Fine Gael Wexford Senator, Liam Twomey, said our prison policy is fatally flawed, with our prisons bursting at the seams and taxpayers spending millions each year on an utterly failed system.

“Our prison policy is an abysmal failure which is failing victims of crime, the perpetrators and the taxpayer shelling out an inordinate amount of money with little or no results.

“It costs somewhere in the region of €100,000 each and every year to keep an offender in prison and with our prisons bursting at the seams we have to ask ourselves if our recent prison policy is achieving its objective as a deterrent to committing crime.

“The annual report of the Irish Prisons Service 2008 showed that:
• of those incarcerated in 2008 a third were non-nationals, the majority of whom were awaiting deportation;
• There was an 88% increase in the numbers imprisoned for not paying fines;
• For the majority of prisoners, the average stay was approximately 4-12 months.

“Research shows that in difficult economic times an upsurge in property crime takes place. The latest CSO statistics on crime confirm that fact, indicating a rise in burglary, robbery and related offences. A comparison of Quarter 4 in 2009 and Quarter 4 2008 showed that burglaries rose by 8.8% and possession of an article with intent to burgle or steal was up by a staggering 39%.

“Fine Gael has long advocated a radical change in policy on crime including the creation and adoption of an alternative dispute resolution system to deal with the payment of debt.

“Hardened criminals view our current system as a soft-touch, administering three to four month prison stints. The emotional effects of such a stretch inside on those imprisoned for non-payment of fines can not and must not be underestimated.

“With a cost of roughly €2,000 per week to jail these offenders, it is patently clear that we need to review current practice which is neither cost effective nor a suitable deterrent. Real deterrents are needed to prevent crime with short or unnecessary prison sentence clearly a waste of time”.

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