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Experts say fewer young men in Ireland could be a factor in declining prison numbers

There were 77,000 fewer men aged in their 20s in Ireland in 2016 compared to 2006.

Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

THE NUMBER OF people in Irish prisons is falling every year and so too is the number of men across the country aged 20-29 leading experts to believe the two are possibly linked.

The Irish Prison Service (IPS) yesterday launched its annual report which showed that the number of people incarcerated across the country has dropped by over 12% (around 2,000 people).

There was a total of 15,099 committals last year.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Director General of the IPS, Michael Donnellan, said the statisticians who compiled the annual records spotted an interesting trend.

“What we’ve seen in the last number of years is the decrease in the amount of people who are being sent to prison.

“Now, the people who compile the stats here have found that if you compare the census between 2006 and 2016, there is a 22% reduction in the number of males aged between 20 and 29.”

He added:

If age is a predictor of offending, that goes some way to understanding, maybe, some of the overall reduction.

Other factors which could have an impact on the dwindling numbers include a reduction in the number of people who are being jailed for not paying fines. There has been a 50% drop in the number of people incarcerated for not paying up.

Addressing the power that gangs wield inside prison, Donnellan said that moving all gang leaders to one centralised wing was not going to work.

The idea was floated by the Prison Officers’ Association (POA) at their annual delegate conference in Galway at the start of the month.

But Donnellan said that they already have an effective way of curbing the influence gangland criminals have inside prisons.

“We have a strategy of separating people who are gang leaders. Our strategy is also to disperse people, we don’t at the moment put all our gang leaders in one area.

Our policy is to keep people separated, break them up and break down the influence.

Stephen Delaney, President of the POA, has said there are dozens of gangs operating in prisons.

He said:

If you take out 40 kingpins, the whole environment of a prison changes, even just 10 of them would change things massively. I can tell you now.

4348 Weapons Find_90500885 The Kinahan/Hutch feud has complicated matters for prison officers. Source: Sam Boal

“In Mountjoy alone, there are 18 gangs. Some of the gangs are interconnected as well so it can get very complex.”

It has come to the point where prison officers have to use a colour-coded system to identify prisoners as being a member of a particular gang.

The Kinahan/Hutch feud “complicated things”, according to Gabriel Keaveney, who is the Assistant General Secretary of the POA.

“The number of prisoners on protection is rising all the time. It gets so problematic. At the moment they’re all in different locations.

In some cases, it gets so problematic that you have to put a different colour card outside their door. So, the reds can mix with the blues and not the yellows. The greens are okay with the blue and not the rest.
It’s insane. You also have people who were never in prison before come up to the gate and say ‘I’m with X or Y…. I’m from this part of the city’.

Moving all different gang bosses has been met with opposition by senior civil servants who say that the transportation of the prisoners would be challenged in the courts.

Read: ‘It took six officers to restrain him’: Psychoactive legal highs are creeping into Irish prisons >

Read: Security systems installed in homes of Mountjoy prison officers following death threats >

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