We use cookies to collect and analyse information on site performance and usage to improve and customise your experience, where applicable. View our Cookies Policy. Click Accept and continue to use our website or Manage to review and update your preferences.

IPRT welcomes IPS focus on overcrowding

30 Nov 2023 / justice Print

IPRT welcomes IPS focus on overcrowding

The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) has welcomed many elements of two strategy documents published by the Irish Prison Service (IPS).

The IPS yesterday (29 November) launched its service strategy for the 2023-2027 period, as well as a drugs strategy for 2023-2026, at an event in Mountjoy Prison.

Writing in its service strategy, IPS director general Caron McCaffrey said that the organisation was facing many challenges, citing the rising numbers in custody and an ageing prisoner population.

She also referred to the challenge of maintaining services during times of rising costs and a tight labour market.

Alternative pathways

Saoirse Brady (IPRT Executive Director) welcomed the particular focus in the service strategy on examining alternative prisoner pathways for people who did not pose a risk of serious harm, and reducing overcrowding in prisons.

The strategy outlined plans for improved prisoner services to accommodate for the recent growth in the number of people in prison – including healthcare, rehabilitation, education, pathways to employment, and resettlement.

Brady warned, however, that broader efforts across the criminal-justice system must focus on reducing the number of people sent to prison in the first place. She highlighted the IPRT’s particular concern about the high rates of people on remand in prisons.

Brady also welcomed the IPS’s plans to improve and expand its digital platforms – including the introduction of self-service kiosks and in-cell telephones and devices. She added, however, that these enhancements should not be a replacement for in-person visits.

The IPRT expressed disappointment that an IPS plan to ‘constructively engage prisoners and families’ was set for 2025, saying that this should take place sooner.

Co-operation on drugs welcomed

The prison service’s drugs strategy sets out three objectives in its approach to the use of drugs:

  • Inform and educate,
  • Detect and reduce, and
  • Support and treat.

IPRT acknowledged that the IPS was faced with “an extraordinarily difficult situation” regarding the impact that drugs had on the prison estate.

“It is commendable to see the IPS recognise the need for meaningful and wide-ranging co-operation and partnership across all criminal-justice and support agencies to tackle the problem of drug use,” the trust stated.

“We feel the IPS should place increased emphasis on the objective of ‘support and treat’ as the foundation on which any long-lasting success in combating drug misuse is built,” said Brady.

The IPRT called for an approach that prioritised harm-reduction – including through the introduction of needle-exchange programmes, and anti-overdose measures, such as providing naloxone nasal sprays.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland