Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Questions (620)

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

620. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Justice if the evidence base from the Irish Prison Service report will be published which proposes that an increase in the Irish population requires the creation of additional prison spaces; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [8470/21]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I can advise the Deputy that the Irish Prison Service monitors closely the trends in prisoners numbers to support the management of the prison population across the Prison Estate.

The number of persons in custody has shown some fluctuation since 2006 and the number of persons in custody peaked in February 2011 at 4,621, before falling back to 3,525 in January 2015.

Since 2016, the number of persons in custody had been steadily increasing until March 2020 when this trend was ended with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

I understand that the report referred to by the Deputy was an internal document prepared by the Irish Prison Service in January 2020 which gave an overview of trends in prison numbers from 2016 to 2019 and was prepared against the backdrop of a sharper increase in prisoner numbers during 2018 and 2019. I have no plans to publish this document.

Despite the increase in prisoner numbers here in 2019, the Deputy may be interested to note that according to the Council of Europe Annual Penal Statistics, known as the SPACE Report, the rate of imprisonment in Ireland per 100,000 in 2019 was 81.2. This is considerably lower than the average rate across the member states of the Council of Europe which was 125.9.

In general terms, demographics can have an impact on the prison population but is only one variable which includes; socio-economic developments, crime rate, Garda activity, criminal justice policy and legislation, Courts activity and policy decisions on release.