Punishment and rehabilitation


Sir, – I read with interest your editorial on sentencing and the prison system (August 6th).

Any fleeting observer in the District and Circuit Courts, which handle the vast bulk of criminal cases in this country, cannot fail to notice the prevalence of drug and alcohol addiction, homelessness, and mental health problems among accused persons.

Incredible work is done by the Irish Prison Service and the Probation Service to address some of these issues, but while a few years in a prison like “Soberhill” may help someone to get clean of drugs, etc, it is entirely likely that their time in prison is the only exposure to the rehabilitative and healthcare services necessary to address these issues they will ever have. It may well also be that a prison sentence is the longest period of stable accommodation for much of their lives. Coming out of prison into unemployment, family dysfunction, and general precarity makes a relapse into addiction, mental illness, and reoffending depressingly predictable.

The criminal justice system cannot provide people with healthcare, housing, and meaningful employment (except, perhaps, lawyers like myself). Sentencing policy is important to address many of the problems within the criminal justice system. Social policy is required to reduce crime. – Yours, etc,


Marino, Dublin 9.