For many decades, people were sent to prison, no matter how briefly, over the non-payment of fines.
This was preposterously expensive and terrible waste of State resources.
The reality was that the sanction was levied on the public purse, not the offender.
That cart-before-the-horse foolishness has thankfully changed
Irish Prison Service figures show that committals for non-payment of court fines have almost disappeared, down from almost 9,900 in 2015 to just 455 in 2018 – a fall of 95%.
However, there are more people in prison because of a rise in committals for non-fine offences.
This overdue reform was enabled by the Fines (Payment and Recovery) Act 2014, which took effect from January 2016 and shows that unsatisfactory situations can be confronted and resolved in a positive way.
The current campaign by Garda Commissioner Drew Harris to get more gardaí to do police rather than clerical work should be seen in the same light — especially as it could have a comparable beneficial impact on policing.