Politics

Opinion: lucinda’s ‘3 strikes’ require serious prison investment

One of their most prominent policies was their ‘three Strikes’ plan; to give a life imprisonment to anyone who gets three ‘serious’ crime convictions.
 
Murder, Rape, Child Sex Abuse, and Burglary are a few of the crimes Renua suggested would come under the three strikes law.
 
There are a few issues with this; Renua believe in punishing repeat offenders with life sentences. But isn’t the definition of ‘life sentence’ a broad one?
 
According to Citizens’ information, the average life sentence is twelve years, but there are some who are serving life sentences of over 30. According to Research conducted by NUI Galway law lecturer Dr Diarmuid Griffin, the average time a murderer serves is 20 years, already a life sentence.
 
Firstly, In the current system, how is someone still on the street after killing twice? Surely that equates to two separate life sentences, with the 30+ year life sentence being put in place the second time around? The same goes for the rest; the maximum sentence for the crimes of murder, rape, and child sex abuse are life imprisonment. If they didn’t receive it the second time around, they most certainly would receive it the third time.
 
Secondly, this measure would see burglary, which has a 5 year maximum sentence, be seen as seriously as a serial killer. Since when is Burglary on the same pedestal to Murder, Rape or Child Sex Abuse?
 
Based on this, it shouldn’t make an awful lot of difference whether the 3 strikes rule was in or not in the handing out of life sentences for repeat offences of these crimes.
 
But something doesn’t add up here. And this is before finances; this is before prison capacity.
 
There is undoubtedly a problem with repeat offences in Ireland, burglary in particular. The Central Statistics Office says there were 27635 burglaries in Ireland in 2014, a rise of 5% on 2013 figures.
 
But new legislation has been introduced this week to deal with the problem of burglary’s repeat offenders.
 
It is noble to try and catch those that won’t learn. But why do people keep getting off with smaller terms if there is a 5 year sentence available?
 
Let’s look at the state of the prisons: According to the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) there were 3,777 people in prison custody in Ireland on 3 Dec 2015. The Capacity is 4168. That’s 90% capacity. Where would you put them?
 
According to the IPRT, The prison population increased by 400% from 1970 to 2011. Bearing that trend in mind, we can predict that the prison population would increase regardless of the measures that Renua will take to fill them.
 
Is this really just a way of telling us they’re investing in prisons? Why not just tell us that outright?
 
It looks bad on posters.
 
‘3 Strikes’ sounds much better than ‘investing in criminals’. The voter is much more interested in hearing about putting criminals behind bars than the logistics of keeping them there.
 
According to the IPRT, “In 2014 the average cost of an ‘available, staffed prison space’ was €68,959, which is an increase of €3,417 from 2013 figures.”
 
If you put that information into the public domain, and say, “we’re going to get you to pay for more of these”, people won’t react well.
 
As was previously mentioned, prisons are at 90% capacity. And if the imprisonment trend continues, then it will need some serious investment. What would the voter think if Lucinda came out and announced a Pascal Sauvage-esque plan for Prison investment before an election?
 
Even he had the good sense to keep it under wraps until after the coronation.
 
And that’s before you even consider the knock on effects of increased implementation of prison sentences.
 
The majority of crimes are statistically shown to be committed by people who are impoverished. According to the IPRT there was a 75% increase in daily prison population aged 50+ from 2008 to 2014. If you remove a father or a mother from a poor family, who will provide? And by what means?
 
That’s right, not only do you lock up a parent, but you more or less pave the way for another generation of offenders from that family. And you reduce the chances of the child ever getting one of these fabled ‘new jobs’ in the future. At least the newly started criminal records might curb the youth emigration. But that’s a different argument.
 
Mostly people have this perception that life in prison is the lap of luxury. Tales of mobile phones and television and caviar meals. But in the majority of cases, that is not so – According to the IPRT, as of January 2015, Cork Prison was operating at 129% of its recommended maximum capacity.
 
Their figures also claim that there are 292 prisoners in Cork, Limerick and Portlaoise prison ‘slopping out without in-cell sanitation.