A pre-budget submission from the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) has called on the Government to invest in alternatives to prison.
The organisation has urged the Government to fund measures that will reduce prison overcrowding and support families of people in prison.
Among the measures it proposes is the allocation of an additional €5 million to the Probation Service to support greater use of Community Service Orders and probation supervision.
Saoirse Brady (IPRT executive director) said that the organisation was concerned about the Government’s plans to increase prison space in response to a rising prison population.
She said that this contravened “clear commitments” in its Review of Policy Options for Prison and Penal Reform 2022-2024 to reduce the number of people serving short custodial sentences of 12 months or less.
“While we understand the need to provide capital infrastructure investment to update and improve the prison estate, Budget 2024 provides a timely opportunity to invest in practical measures that will help to alleviate the current situation of chronic prison overcrowding,” Brady stated.
The IPRT submission estimates that €2 million in funding to the Irish Prison Service (IPS) could facilitate improved family contact between people in prison and their families and children.
It adds that measures to counter recidivism and support the community re-integration of women leaving the criminal-justice system would cost €300,000.
The IPRT is also calling for €1 million to be provided to the Irish Prison Service for additional counselling services for addiction and mental-health issues, and €365,000 for the introduction of a prison-education allowance.
The organisation is also asking the Government to look at providing dedicated funding to support and provide restorative justice at all stages of the criminal-justice system on a nationwide basis.