#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 7°C Friday 30 October 2020

Labour launch policy document on penal reform

Ireland’s current penal system is ineffective and leads to overcrowded prisons, argue Pat Rabbittee and Ivana Bacik.

Image: Julien Behal/PA Archive

THE LABOUR PARTY has released a new policy document on penal reform, trying to end what it calls a “costly and ineffective” system that has led to overcrowded prisons.

The policy document, ‘A Fair and Effective Penal System‘, outlines the party’s reform plans, which commits the party to the concept of “imprisonment as a last resort” and to the development of “evidence-led” penal policies.

The party argues that the proposed development at Thornton Hall, which would become Ireland’s first ‘supermax’ prison if completed, would increase the number of offenders being contacted – often for minor and non-violent crimes – without any regard for their rehabilitation.

Given the expense of the Thornton Hall development, the party said it advocated redeveloping the current Mountjoy prison complex.

Among the party’s pledges are:

  • the introduction of a new Sentencing Act which would give legal legitimacy to the concept of jail as last resort
  • advocating alternative punishment, such as community service, instead of short imprisonment sentences
  • improved ‘case management’ systems to reduce the waiting times for the processing of cases involving young people
  • development of the current prison system to provide in-cell sanitation as an absolute minimum
  • the move towards a series of smaller, local prisons

Launching the document, the party’s Dáil justice spokesman Pat Rabbitte said Ireland needed both legislative reform to change prison sentencing, as well as the pursuit of improved cost-efficiency in its prison service.

Seanad justice spokesperson Ivana Bacik said the government had failed “to devise a coherent policy on the penal system”.

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

Read next: