Cork organisation calls for greater funds to assist former prisoners in Budget 2023

Cork Alliance Centre is looking for greater resources for former prisoners
Cork organisation calls for greater funds to assist former prisoners in Budget 2023

Cork Prison: In a statement to The Echo, a spokesperson for the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) called for the allocation of funding to enact recent recommendations aimed at reducing the number of people imprisoned for minor offences.

AHEAD of this week’s budget, a Cork organisation working with former prisoners has called for the allocation of greater resources to assist with rehabilitation and reintegration.

Sheila Connolly is director of the Cork Alliance Centre, a charity which supports former prisoners seeking to make a fresh start in life.

“[What] the Cork Alliance Centre would be looking from the Department of Justice and for former prisoners would be greater resources to be building on the rehabilitation aspects of the work that’s already ongoing,” Ms Connolly told The Echo.

“That work is centred around education and psychology, the integrated sentence management, the addiction and psychiatric support for people, and then in turn then strengthening the community supports that are there because they provide the mechanisms that we need.

“That’s where we’re working, to build up people’s strength and to continue to address those pieces of the addiction, and to bring people back to recovery through any of those therapeutic interventions,” she said.

“All of those interventions are creating that safer society for everybody, focussing on rehabilitation and reintegration to create that space for change to happen, and if we can resource that, and I’ll always argue for that to be resourced, then we can actually facilitate all of that change to happen.” 

REDUCING PRISON TERMS FOR MINOR OFFENCES

Separately, in a statement to The Echo, a spokesperson for the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) called for the allocation of funding to enact recent recommendations aimed at reducing the number of people imprisoned for minor offences.

“The Minister for Justice very recently published a comprehensive and progressive Action Plan for Prison and Penal Reform with a clear focus on reducing the number of people in prison for minor offences,” the spokesperson said.

“IPRT is calling on the Government to ensure that sufficient resources are allocated in Budget 2023 to deliver on these priority actions and ensure that the plan does not become just another policy paper that sits on the shelf.

“While the Action Plan commits to invest in modernising and updating the prison estate, which will help to ensure that every person in prison has adequate facilities and that their dignity is upheld, it is important that we do not simply create more prison spaces to fill,” they said.

The IPRT spokesperson said that if the Government is serious about implementing its own plan then it must provide the Probation Service with more resources to support people to allow them to serve their sentence in the community where appropriate.

“Removing people sentenced for short periods from the prison population can help to improve the management of prison services and means that people serving longer sentences should have increased access to better living conditions and relevant rehabilitative interventions.

“This approach has been proven to better support individuals and reduce reoffending,” they said.

“It also has financial savings for the Exchequer given that probation supervision costs less than €6,000 a year compared to €80,000 for an available, staffed prison space.

The IPRT spokesperson said people in prison are much more likely to have a mental health illness yet have little to no access to necessary treatment.

2We hope that the forthcoming High Level Task Force report on the Mental Health and Addiction Challenges of People Interacting with the Criminal Justice System will provide a clear and costed action plan to ensure that the necessary services can be put in place.

2A prime example of an extremely effective system that is already up and running is the Prison In-Reach and Court Liaison Service operating in Cloverhill prison for people with mental health difficulties who are held on remand,” they said.

“This service helps to identify defendants with severe mental illness and provide practical solutions to divert people from custody and instead access appropriate mental health care in the community.

“IPRT hopes to see money ring-fenced to replicate this service in prisons nationwide and relieve the current pressure on overcrowded prisons,” the spokesperson said.

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