With the election of the Fine Gael – Labour Government in 2011, a commitment was made to reduce the prison population and to alleviate overcrowding, primarily through non-custodial options for non-violent and less serious crimes (Department of the Taoiseach, 2011). A commitment was also given to provide in-cell sanitation and, resource permitting, upgrade prison facilities (Ibid.).
In April 2012 the Irish Prison Service (IPS) released its Three Year Strategic Plan 2012–2015 that aimed to improve the Irish prisons system across six key strategic actions: prisoner numbers; prisoner progression; prisoner programmes; management and staffing; the prison estate, and legislative consolidation (2012a). In June 2012 the IPS published a One Year Implementation Plan that set out short-term objectives under the same six strategic actions (2012b). This report examines each of these objectives, covering the period from June 2012 to May 2013.
This report was compiled with the objective of monitoring progress on the Irish Prison Service’s Three Year Strategic Plan and more specifically, its One Year Implementation Plan. The report addresses each of the strategic actions of year one, giving each objective a traffic light score, followed by an explanation of the score, related commentary and recommendations. Traffic light scores have been assigned on the basis of the IPS’s success in meeting its own goals as they were set out in the One Year Implementation Plan. Traffic Light scores have not been assigned on the basis of the level of impact changes have had or with reference to the aspirations, scale or
scope of adopted goals; such analysis is reserved for the commentary section. Traffic lights can be read as follows, Green: all or a large majority of the stated goals have been completely met. Amber: some goals have been met, but others remain partly unfulfilled. Red: all or most goals have not been met and significant action has not been taken in key areas.
Most of the information gathered during the compilation of this report was obtained using Parliamentary Questions addressed to the Minister for Justice and Equality, Alan Shatter TD. The Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice (JCFJ) is aware of concerns expressed by commentators that the imprecise nature of answers provided, and the potential bias of the civil service limits the usefulness of parliamentary questions as a method of research (Martin, 2011; MacCarthaigh, 2005).