Mr. Alan Shatter, T.D., Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence today published the Irish Prison Service's 2010 Annual Report. 

Speaking on the publication Minister Shatter said, "It is clear from the 2010 Annual Report that the greatest challenge facing the Irish Prison Service continues to be the increasing number of prisoners being committed to custody, the pressures that this creates in the system and the consequent high number of prisoners on temporary release due to insufficient prison spaces." 

The Report shows that there were 17,179 committals to prison in 2010 (a total of 13,758 persons accounted for these committals) which is an increase of 11.4 % on the 2009 total of 15,425.  In total there were 12,487 committals under sentence in 2010 which represents an increase of almost 15% on the number of committals under sentence in 2009 of 10,865.

The Report also highlights the fact that committals under sentence of less than 3 months increased by 27.9% on the 2009 figure, from 5,750 to 7,356.  In large, this increase can be attributed to a rise in the numbers committed for non-payment of court ordered fines in 2010 – there were 6,683 such committals in 2010 compared to 4,806 in 2009, which represents an increase of 39%.

The daily average number of prisoners in custody in 2010 was 4,290, an increase of 10.5% (409 prisoners) on the 2009 figure of 3,881.  The average number of female offenders in custody also rose by 19% from 132 in 2009 to 157 in 2010.  The daily average number of prisoners on temporary release in 2010 was 732, an increase of 37% on the 2009 daily average of 535.

The main statistical highlights of the Report are as follows:

Committals
There were 17,179 committals to prison in 2010 which is an increase of 11.4 % on the 2009 total of 15,425 and follows a 13.8% increase on the total in 2008.   
 
13,758 persons were sent to prison in 2010 compared to 12,339 in 2009, which represents an increase of 11.5%.  Of those 87.6% were male and 12.4% female.

· There was an increase of 1,622 or 14.9% in the numbers committed to prison under sentence in 2010 (12,487) over 2009 (10,865).
· The number of prisoners committed serving 10 years or more decreased by 37.1% from 70 offenders in 2009 to 44 in 2010. 
· The number of prisoners committed serving sentences in the 3 to 5 years category decreased by 10.4% on the 2009 figure (469 in 2009 to 420 in 2010).
· Committals under sentence of less than 3 months increased by 27.9% on the 2009 figure, i.e., from 5,750 to 7,356.
· Even though 87% of committals under sentence were for sentences of less than one year, only 15% of prisoners in custody on a given day were serving sentences of less than one year, i.e. 85% are serving a sentence of one year or more.

Snapshot of prison population on 30th November 2010
· The total for the number of persons in custody (4,440) is an increase of almost 9.9% on the comparable 2009 figure (4,040).
· Some 286 prisoners (7.7%) were serving life sentences and another 285 (also 7.7%) were serving determinate sentences of 10 years or more.
· 38 offenders were serving sentences of less than 3 months representing 1% of the total number of prisoners in custody.  There were 15 persons in prison for non-payment of fines which represents 0.3% of the total number of prisoners in custody.
· Irish nationals accounted for 89.3% of the total number of persons in custody under sentence on the 30 November 2010. 

Cost of Providing Prison Spaces
The average cost of an available, staffed prison space during the calendar year 2010 was €70,513 (€77,222 in 2009), a decrease on the 2009 cost of €6,709 or 8.7%.  This decrease in average cost results from reduced expenditure and an increase in the provision of bed capacity.  The relevant figures are:
· a decrease in total expenditure over 2009 figures of €20.7 million; and
· an increase in bed capacity of 97 from 4,106 as at 31st December 2009 to an average bed capacity of 4,203 for 2010.

The Irish Prison Service Annual Report 2010 is available on the Department of Justice and Equality website at 

http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/Irish Prison Service Annual Report 2010

The Minister reiterated the comments he made when he published the report of the Thornton Hall Review Group last month when he stated that while acknowledging the difficult economic and financial constraints facing the country, given the dramatic rise in both the numbers in custody and those on temporary release, it is imperative that we take reasonable and practical steps to alleviate the pressures on capacity within our prison system.

Minister Shatter said, "I agree with the views expressed by the Review Group that prison overcrowding cannot be solved solely by building more prisons and that further steps are required to reduce the prison population, although this obviously cannot be achieved overnight.  The Review Group recommended a combination of front-door strategies (giving the courts the power to impose a wider range of non-custodial sanctions) and back-door strategies (an incentivised scheme of early temporary release with a requirement to do community service under supervision in order to "pay back" the community and the introduction of a home detention system in appropriate cases) to reduce the prison population.

The recommendations of the Review Group were accepted by Cabinet in July last and progress is being made toward implementing the strategies recommended.  The enactment in July of the Criminal Justice (Community Service) (Amendment) Act 2011 imposes an obligation on judges considering the imposition of a prison sentence of less than one year to first consider the imposition of community service as an alternative to imprisonment.  As a result of this enactment there should be in the next 12 months a significant increase in convicted offenders undertaking community service and a reduction in numbers serving short-term prison sentences.  In the coming weeks it is also intended on a pilot basis to provide for the early temporary release, with the requirement to do community service under supervision by The Probation Service, of appropriate prisoners who are considered to pose no threat to the community.  It is also intended to give new guidelines to The Parole Board for the application of such a scheme to long-term prisoners.  I expect to make a further announcement about the implementation of reforms in the autumn.

As Minister for Justice and Equality I am committed to ensuring that the Irish Prison Service continues to fulfil its obligations under our criminal justice system and to implement crucial reforms necessary to broaden the options available to the judiciary when dealing with convicted offenders and to reduce the level of recidivism", concluded the Minister.

25 August, 2011

ENDS