Open letter opposes prison expansion plans

Open letter opposes prison expansion plans

Dr Ian Marder

Politicians and legal academics have signed an open letter opposing government plans to expand prisons and calling for evidence-based alternatives.

Senator Lynn Ruane, Labour leader Ivana Bacik and the Social Democrats’ Garry Gannon are among signatories to the letter, which was featured in The Irish Times yesterday.

“Contrary to what is often assumed and the rhetoric we see in public debates, imprisonment is not an effective way of preventing or reducing crime,” it states.

The letter calls for Ireland to “move on from its addiction to short prison sentences” and to resolve offences “outside of court wherever possible”, while highlighting a lack of investment in the areas of victim support, restorative justice, social, youth and community work, addiction and poverty reduction.

Dr Ian Marder, assistant professor in criminology at Maynooth School of Law and Criminology, told Irish Legal News: “This letter demonstrates the strength of feeling about the direction of criminal justice policy among some of the people who understand the consequences of different approaches.

“I suspect that other people with knowledge about criminal justice, such as prison and probation officers, gardaí, victims of crime, and people who have been to prison, were not consulted meaningfully either. In my experience, they tend to understand the futility of cycling people through prisons, and the need to focus on prevention.

“Justice is too important for policy to be made this way: justice professionals and people with experience of crime and justice or knowledge of research must have a voice.”

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