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Dublin: 17 °C Friday 7 August, 2020
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Over 100 young Irish adults spend 23 hours a day in a cell like this

Young adults are overrepresented in the prison population.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

THERE ARE OVER 100 young adults who spend 23 hours a day inside cramped prison cells.

Calls to change how 18-24 year olds are jailed were made today at the launch of a report by the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice.

Those spending their time in the cells do so for a variety of reasons, with 17 in solitary confinement and others in fear of their safety.

Eoin Carroll, Advocacy Officer in the Jesuit Centre told a crowd in Dublin’s Alexander Hotel today that young adults are entirely over-represented in prison.

“What our report highlights as being particularly startling is the percentage of young adults on ‘extended lock up’ what we refer to as ‘severe confinement’.

31% of adults on extended lock up times are aged 18–24. The most recent figures we have showed that seventeen young adults were locked in their cell for 23 hours each and every day.

“This is hard to fathom, over the course of a week that is 161 hours out of 168 locked up.”

Carroll made the point that the cells are often smaller that the one displayed to people at the launch, which was eight square metres.

He added that poverty, deprivation, social exclusion, an inadequate supply of housing and exclusion from school all play a role in young adults committing crime, but he showed evidence which supports the idea that many “grow out of” crime.

Radical

Speirs310516JCFJDublin04 oin Carroll and Peter McVerry SJ with Joanne O'Riordan launching 'Developing Inside: Transforming Prison for Young Adults', Source: Derek Speirs

Campaigner Father Peter McVerry, who spends time in prisons, told TheJournal.ie that something radical must be done. He said that in Dublin, drugs can be delivered by a “13-year-old on a bike quicker than a pizza”.

“It’s hard to change mindsets, but people have to realise that what we’re doing isn’t working. We have to sit down and look at the alternatives.

Prison should be there to support people in growing out of crime. At the minute, the evidence suggests it makes people more likely to be criminals. We have to focus on the 13-16 age group and move them away from drug gangs.

“Almost guaranteeing them a job if they finish their Leaving Cert, even if the state has to fund it.”

Disability campaigner Joanne O’Riordan, herself a criminology student, called for a change to the mindset of “turning the key and throwing it away”.

“It is shocking to learn that people in prison, my age, spend so much time locked in their cell. That the norm is around 17 hours locked up each day and that there are over 100 young adults locked up for longer, some for 23 hours.”

O’Riordan told how, as a child, her parents had taken her to the now-closed Fort Michel Prison on Spike Island in Cork, to thank young people who had raised money for her.

The prisoners there – mainly in their early 20’s – decided to organise a fundraiser for my family. When my parents heard, they wanted to personally thank them. I spent a day playing with them in the prison. Such a gesture, prisoners raising money for someone, really challenges our perception about people in prison as being just “bad”

Carroll called for a dedicated support unit for those aged 18-24 to deal with young offenders, explaining that many are transferred to adult wings in prison the day they turn 18.

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