Prison crisis to worsen as Britain to deport criminals

IRELAND’S prison overcrowding crisis is set to worsen after the British government announced plans to deport Irish inmates serving sentences in its jails back to this country.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has confirmed the plans as part of an attempt to address his own penal service’s capacity difficulties.

The Conservative Party leader said he will be asking justice secretary Ken Clarke to “see if we can do better” than the deposed Labour government on the issue.

Led by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown in government between 1997 until May 2010, the former political leaders of Britain blocked previous plans to return Irish prisoners to their country of birth.

However, Mr Cameron said his party and coalition colleagues the Liberal Democrats are set to re-open discussions on the matter.

“We are looking at how we can transfer prisoners who are foreign nationals from Britain to other countries,” said Mr Cameron when pressed to confirm the potential move in a House of Commons debate. “The previous government said it would not routinely support the deportation of Irish prisoners from the United Kingdom. I’m going to ask my right honourable friend, the justice secretary, to see if we can do better.”

The plan to bring hundreds of Irish citizens back to serve their sentences in this country instead of in British jails has not been confirmed by either the Department of Justice or prison officials here. Should the move take place, it could lead to further problems in a beleaguered prison service.

While Ireland’s prison population stood at 3,191 in 2006, it had almost doubled 5,456 by the end of last month. It is further anticipated that the number of people serving time in Ireland’s 14 jails will reach more than 6,000 over the next 12 months.

Of last month’s figure, 1,000 prisoners were either on early release or “unlawfully at large”, partially due to the growing overcrowding problems in the system.

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