Leitrim folk least likely to be jailed

Residents of Leitrim and Donegal were the most law-abiding in Ireland last year and the least likely to get sent to jail.

Some 7,484 people were imprisoned during 2017, a dramatic fall on previous years.

New legislation meant far fewer people went to jail for non-payment of fines.

A county-by-county analysis shows Limerick had by far the highest imprisonment rate, with 237 people per 100,000 of population sent to jail last year.

By comparison, the rate in two other counties was almost a quarter of that, with 60 per 100,000 people imprisoned in Donegal and just 59 in Leitrim.

That Leitrim rate equates to just 19 people from Leitrim jailed last year.

For Sligo and Roscommon, it was just 48 each.

Other counties with comparatively high rates of imprisonment included Dublin, where the committal rate was 185 for every 100,000 residents.

Altogether, 2,490 people who had given an address in the capital were sent to jail, with 15% of them being women.

Carlow and Longford also had higher-than-average imprisonment, with rates of 179 and 176 per 100,000 of population, respectively.

The rate in Co Cork was below the national average, at 133 imprisoned for every 100,000 people.

Many of the lowest rates were in the west of Ireland: In Roscommon and Sligo, rates were half the national average.

Comparatively low rates of imprisonment were also found in the counties surrounding Dublin, with Kildare, Meath, and Wicklow all below 100 committals per 100,000 people.

The national average is skewed by a significant number of people who gave addresses outside the country and those who were of no fixed abode.

However, the average worked out at 141 per 100,000, when those groups were excluded.

Altogether, 415 people with ‘no fixed abode’ were imprisoned last year, a significant portion of whom are thought to have been homeless.

Another 87 people — almost evenly split between women (40) and (47) — gave an address outside of Ireland to prison authorities. In the cases of 234 people, no address was stated.

Some 52 people from the North were imprisoned here.

Of all of those imprisoned, 1,081 of them were women and 6,403 were men, according to figures from the Irish Prison Service.

This represented a sizable shift in the gender breakdown, again understood to be directly linked to legislation on non-payment of fines.

In 2016, almost one in five of those committed to prison were women, whereas last year that figure dropped below 15%.

The dramatic fall in the number of people imprisoned last year has been welcomed by the Irish Prison Service.

An Irish Prison Service spokesman said: “Figures for 2017 show the fines committal figure for [the year] … is 2,262, a percentage drop of 73% on the 2016 figure of 8,439 and a 77% [reduction] on the 2015 figure of 9,883.

“The Irish Prison Service welcomes the reduction in committals, as it has resulted in a significant saving in ‘man hours’, which would have been spent processing these persons.”

Sources said the benefits were not just being felt in the prison service, but also by gardaí and the courts. Bureaucracy has been cut down.

The source said: “There was an enormous amount of often pointless work going on, going through the long process of jailing people for non-payment of fines, with many of them released from custody almost immediately.”


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