Call for change on disproportionate  numbers of Travellers in prison

Call for change on disproportionate  numbers of Travellers in prison
Pavee Point is calling for specific measures to minimise the risk of young Travellers entering the criminal justice system.

One in four women in prison is from a Traveller background, despite the ethnic group making up just 0.7% of the overall population.

With 19% of youths detained in Oberstown also from a Traveller background, there have been claims that Travellers are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system.

An analysis of youths detained at the facility in the first quarter of 2019 found one in five came from a Traveller background, echoing a trend seen in other years — 23% in 2017 and 22% in 2018.

Pavee Point said the figures reflected a wider trend in the criminal justice system.

“Unfortunately, this is nothing new," said Martin Collins of Pavee Point. "This has been a consistent concern over many years where young Travellers are disproportionately represented in Oberstown.

“It also reflects a wider trend in the criminal justice system. We know that Traveller men make up more than 10% and Traveller women make up 22% of the adult prison population. The total Traveller population only constitutes 0.7% of the population.”

Mr Collins said the trend was not unique to Ireland and was evident across other ethnic minorities across the globe.

In a submission in June to the Department of Justice on a new youth justice strategy, Pavee Point called for both mainstream and targeted measures to reduce the risk of young Travellers ending up in the criminal justice system.

“We’re calling for targeted and specific measures to minimise the risk of young Travellers coming into contact with the criminal justice system,” Mr Collins said.

From our experience, there is little engagement between young Travellers and youth diversion projects and there needs to be more engagement at a very early stage, targeting those Travellers who are most vulnerable and at most risk of getting involved in the criminal justice system.

Services and supports, he added, were currently “very fragmented” and more family supports were needed to provide earlier intervention.

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