Taoiseach says more people means more criminals, requiring more prison cells, but is it that simple?

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Last November, after Josef Puska was sentenced to life for the murder of Aisling Murphy, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced that the State needed more spaces in prisons.

“If people want dangerous people locked up for a long time, we’re going to need more room in our prisons,” the Taoiseach said. Minister for Justice Helen McEntee later confirmed plans for 600 additional spaces across four prison estates.

But, not everyone agrees that building more prison cells is the answer.

The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) has repeatedly called for a reduction in the number of people being jailed, noting that nearly three quarters of committals in 2022 were for 12 months or less. “We need to see a shift to people getting more community service,” IPRT director Saoirse Brady told today’s podcast. “I don’t think that we require extra spaces. It’s actually stated Government policy since August 2022 that we would reduce the number of people going to prison for 12 months or less.”


However, some prisons are very overcrowded, with reports last year that prisoners in Cloverhill Prison were being housed in “degrading conditions”. So, would more spaces not be a positive step for inmates and staff in Irish jails?

Irish Times Crime and Security Editor Conor Lally also joins the podcast to discuss the pros and cons of building more spaces for inmates in Irish prisons.

Today: Does Ireland need more prison cells or fewer prisoners?

Presented by Sorcha Pollak. Produced by John Casey.

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast