The Green Party’s European Elections candidate in Dublin Councillor Ciaran Cuffe has called on the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan TD to tackle prison overcrowding by prioritising alternatives to Prison.
His call came as the Prison Officers’ Association stated that over-crowding is putting prisoners and prison officers at risk.
Launching his position paper on Prison Reform in central Dublin Mr Cuffe said community based, restorative justice programmes could reduce over-crowding and improve outcomes for prisoners.
Mr Cuffe said:
“It is a matter for concern that overcrowding is occurring at the Dóchas Centre Women’s Prison in Dublin. Our prison system has been ‘built by men, for men.’ It is not equipped to cater for the very specific needs of women prisoners. Only two prisons in the country cater for women prisoners: the Dóchas Centre in Dublin and Limerick Prison. Women from other parts of the country have to travel to these centres to serve their sentences, causing additional hardship on their families and dependents.
“We must look to non-custodial alternatives for these women, and other non-violent offenders
“It is vital that we look to divert people from entering the prison system in the first place. We need to develop a system community based sanctions in a meaningful way. The use of community courts has been heralded as an effective way to reduce pressure on both the courts and prison system. In community courts, people who have committed lower level crimes are sent to carry out community service, or to enter rehabilitation rather than being given a custodial sentence. A pilot scheme community court for Dublin City Centre has had a number of false starts over the past decade. If elected, I would work to ensure that this pilot project is established without further delay.
“We must also ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OP-CAT) which would mean an increase both national and international inspections of places where persons are deprived of their liberty.”
If elected MEP for Dublin I will:
- Advocate for gender-specific alternatives to prison for women, with a focus on community service schemes.
- Advocate for the provision of prison space that adequately caters for the specific needs of women prisoners, ie. open prisons
- Work with colleague member states to identify rehabilitation programmes which work well and could be replicated here.
- Work to ensure that a pilot Community Court for Dublin is finally established
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