Prison overcrowding eases as number being jailed falls
Data reveals 14,857 committals to prisons from January to November last year
There are also 130 prisoners currently released under “community return” for another six months. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times
The overcrowding crisis at the State’s prisons has eased considerably in the past year, with the slight fall in prison committals recorded in 2012 having gathered significant pace last year.
Figures obtained by The Irish Times reveal a 7.5 per cent fall in the number of committals to jails in the Republic in the 11-month period to the end of last November when compared to the corresponding period in 2012.
The prison population on any given day is also much lower than in recent years. Last Friday, for example, there were 3,964 prisoners in the system, with a further 655 on temporary release. In mid-2012 the prison population numbered 4,469, with a further 828 on temporary release.
While the lower number of committals has driven that fall, there are also 130 prisoners currently released under “community return”. It is a scheme introduced two years ago that enables prisoners with exemplary behaviour in jail to apply for early release when they have reached the halfway point of their sentences.
The fall in the prison population follows a decade to 2008 in which crime rates increased and the prison population rose to crisis levels despite construction projects providing more prison spaces. The new data reveals 14,857 committals to prisons in the Republic from January to November last year, compared with 16,060 in the same period 2012.
The falls have come as levels of recorded crime have continually fallen since the economy and crime levels peaked in the 2007-2008 period. Some Garda sources believe many crime categories have fallen because consumption of alcohol and illegal drugs has declined in line with falling disposable income. Others believe a reduction in Garda numbers has meant more crime going undetected.