Prison reform plan endorsed by religious order

Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice says Prison Service’s programme is ‘imaginative and innovative’

Former prisioner Ombudsman for Northern Ireland Pauline McCabe  at the launch of the  report by the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Former prisioner Ombudsman for Northern Ireland Pauline McCabe at the launch of the report by the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Wed, Oct 9, 2013, 13:46

The Government’s prison reform programme has received a broadly positive report card from a religious order of the Catholic Church.

Commenting on the implementation of the Prison Service’s Three Year Strategic Plan 2012-2015, the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice described it as an “imaginative and innovative” development of prison policy.

But it also noted what it terms “some worrying deficiencies and delays in the implementation process”.

The Jesuits made their views known at the launch this afternoon of Making Progress? which the order describes as its analysis of the implementation of a one year implementation plan of the longer strategic plan.

The report was launched by Pauline McCabe, former Prisoner Ombudsman for Northern Ireland. She praised both Minister for Justice Alan Shatter and the Prison Service for their work in trying to reform Irish prisons to make incarceration less likely for non-violent crimes and prison regimes more in line with best modern practices.

Eoin Carroll, advocacy officer at the Jesuit Centre, said there had been “positive developments” over the past year but added: “Promised strategies in relation to the detention of women and young people in prison have not yet been developed.”

Father Peter McVerry, who works with the centre, said the government had made “a very welcome start . . . to address the pressing problem of overcrowding”.

He added: “However, there is still a long way to go to achieve the desired target of having one prisoner per cell.”