Number of sex offenders in Irish prisons forecast to rise in coming years

Irish Prison Service report notes rise in the number of inmates with ‘severe’ mental illnesses

An increase in the number of sex offenders in Irish prisons is expected to continue over the next three years, according to a report released by the Irish Prison Service. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times.

An increase in the number of sex offenders in Irish prisons is expected to continue over the next three years, according to a report released by the Irish Prison Service. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times.

 

An increase in the number of sex offenders in Irish prisons is expected to continue over the next three years, according to a report released by the Irish Prison Service.

The report also noted a rise in the number of prisoners with “severe and enduring mental illnesses”, a pattern that the Irish Prison Service says has placed greater strain on providing treatment and services.

The findings are contained in the Irish Prison Service Strategic Plan for 2019 - 2022 which was published on Thursday.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan, who launched the report, noted that a key component of the plan was an overhaul in prison administration, a move that follows several reviews that have advocated change.

“This is very important and my department is working with the director general, and the Irish Prison Service, to design a new governance framework for the Prison Service which will strengthen governance, compliance and accountability,” he said.

The report also highlights many of the realities of day-to-day life in prison communities. It said the population had become more complex with growing numbers of prisoners in some areas.

“This increases demand for intensive programmes. In recent years we have seen an increase in the number of sex offenders who have been committed to custody and this cohort is expected to increase further over the next three years,” it said.

‘Challenges’

“There is evidence of an increase in the number of people committed to prison with severe and enduring mental illnesses, which presents challenges in providing appropriate access to mental health services and facilities.”

The strategy document also addresses prison populations which stabilised and even decreased between 2011 and 2017 before starting to grow again in more recent times.

Since the beginning of last year there has been an 11 per cent rise in the number of people in custody, which had risen to 4,061 by last July.

“The numbers in custody (are) now exceeding 4,000 on a regular basis,” the report says.

It also acknowledged an increase in the number of “remand prisoners” - those awaiting trial - and length of time individuals are spending on remand.

“The daily average number of women in custody has continued to increase year on year since 2015,” it says. “The number of women committed to prison (excluding fines) has increased from 278 in 2017 to 442 in 2018, an increase of 59 per cent.”

Among numerous strategic aims, the Irish Prison Ssrvice said it would look to provide appropriate forensic psychiatric services in all closed prisons and explore the number of admissions to the Central Mental Hospital.

It also aims to develop “interventions” for prisoners who deny sexual violence and to continue its work with housing authorities to improve case management of offenders at risk of homelessness on their release from prison.