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Herrick on Ireland’s prison policy

Liam_Herrick1The Director of the Irish Penal Reform Trust, Liam Herrick (left), writes in today’s Irish Independent about the implications of the state’s current prison policy and particularly the policy of increasing prison places within the state. The entire column is worth reading and is available here, however the following extract gives a good idea of Liam’s overall argument:

IN Ireland, we know that our prison population is made up in significant part by young people who slip through the cracks of our care system, our education system and our mental health services and who come largely from a small number of extremely poor urban communities where economic policies have failed.

An economic analysis of crime would lead us to investing in those communities and services as the most prudent way to avoiding the long-term costs of an inflated prison system.

We are not so naive as to think that all or even most crime is preventable, but a more sophisticated approach to crime is possible. It’s not a question of being soft on crime, it is a question of being smart and effective in how we respond to crime.

We will always have prisons, but in a society that seeks to prevent social problems and build stronger communities, prison should only be used as a last resort.

Instead, resources should be directed towards early intervention and diversion, alternatives to custody, and ensuring the humane treatment of prisoners where imprisonment is deemed necessary.

This commentary comes hot on the heels of the report of the Inspector of Prisons which Liz Campbell blogged about here. In her post, Liz’s focus was on “Limiting the imposition of prison sentences to grave and violent crimes”, which would “improve the protection of human rights for those who are imprisoned, and…free up resources for alterative measures for non-violent and drug offenders who need not be detained in this way”. In this, both Liz and Liam are of one mind and indeed these sentiments have been echoed throughout the human rights community at home and abroad.

(Photo credit)

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