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September 29, 2014

I’m truly impressed by Ireland’s reform of penal policy

I wouldn’t have known about Ireland’s fantastic new penal policy without twitter – @lukecareypact tweeted that the Irish government were to ask Judges to give written explanations for sending someone to jail.  The Irish reform programme is refreshing.  The government set up a working group to examine penal policy in the light of overcrowded prisons.  The working group had civil servants, judges, police, lawyers and prison managers on it. Their report was published just over a week ago and was welcomed by the Minister Frances Fitzgerald.  Her words were music to any penal reform campaigners’ ears.  She didn’t use the word punishment in her response “I am determined that serious offenders and serial offenders must continue to be imprisoned. Society expects and demands nothing less….But while prisons must remain part of the answer, prison must not be the only answer…Prison is not the only solution when it comes to those convicted of lesser, non violent offences. Research proves supervised community sanctions can help in reducing reoffending, thereby reducing crime.”   The recommendations in the report are eminently sensible

– a review of sentencing policy to reduce the number of mandatory sentences

– greater diversion for young adults

– Judges to be explicit about reasons for using imprisonment

– Trial of weekend imprisonment

– More focus on the underlying causes of crime

– Trial of a community court in Dublin

These are exciting, evidence-based ideas. Lets hope they come to fruition