Overcrowded prisons: Major challenge

Last week’s verdict in the Ana Kriegel murder case will bring new challenges to a prison system already dealing with overcrowding. 

The Irish Prison Service annual report warns that overcrowding is a continuing challenge that will get worse as more people are sent to prison, many for longer terms than heretofore.

The average number of prisoners increased by 8% to 3,911 last year. 

Some 349 inmates were serving life for homicide, almost all of them convicted murderers. 

Another 237 individuals were serving defined-term sentences longer than 10 years. 

These figures seem dramatic for such a small country and they raise serious questions.

No society has identified a successful alternative to jail sentences for serious offenders and we are unlikely to.

That seems to oblige us to provide humane conditions for offenders to serve out their sentences. 

Building new prisons may seem an admission of social failure but it might be better than the alternative — the overcrowded, dangerous, and unsatisfactory conditions that prevail today.

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