60 per cent of Cork prisoners committed for not paying fines

Prison reports find ongoing problems with overcrowding and drugs

Nearly two-thirds of Cork prison’s inmates are committed for failing or refusing to pay fines and “turned around” by officials the same day, creating a situation described as a “sham”.

Annual reports on prison inspections in 2013 published yesterday evening highlighted the issue as well as continued difficulties with drugs, overcrowding and staffing in Irish correctional facilities.

However, the most negative emanated from Cork where the visiting committee, assigned to all prisons to gauge conditions and prisoner feedback, criticised a revolving door approach to fines. "Sixty per cent of inmates are committed to Cork prison because they are unwilling or unable to pay fines," it said.

"Processing these offenders, who are turned around on the same day, is a waste of Garda, court and prison resources and makes a sham of the idea of a financial penalty as a disincentive to those who commit a crime." If this situation was not addressed it would bring the criminal justice system into disrepute, it said.

Last July, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter published the Fines (Payment and Recovery) Bill 2013 aimed at reducing the number of people in such circumstances, which has completed its passage through the Oireachtas. The new legislation should result in a reduction in the number of people committed to prison.

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times