Number of people jailed for not paying court-ordered fines almost doubled in 2019

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The Irish Prison Service annual report 2019 was published today.

THE NUMBER OF people committed to prison for not paying a court-ordered fine increased to 860 in 2019 after a few years of decline, according to a new prison report. 

The Irish Prison Service annual report 2019 was published today by the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan. 

It shows that 860 people were committed to prison for not paying a court-ordered fine in 2019, an increase from 455 in 2018.

The decline in previous years was seen after the introduction of the Fines (Payment and Recovery Act) 2014, the report says. This Act allows for fines to be adjusted according to a person’s financial circumstances.

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In total, there were 8,939 committals to prison in 2019, an increase of 10% from the year before and the first increase since 2015.

7,170 people accounted for these committals as the total figure refers to people newly sent to jail (those not on remand or serving another sentence).

More than one-third of people jailed last year listed Dublin as their county of residence. 77% of those committed to prison were Irish nationals. 

Sentences

On 1 January 2019, there were 3,904 prisoners in custody. This reached a high of 4,068 in August and declined again to 3,950 by the end of the year. 

The number of people committed to prison with a life sentence decreased by more than half in 2019 compared to 2018 – from 21 to 9.

There was a 45% increase in the number of sentences lasting less than 12 months.

87% of people sent to prison last year were male and 13% were female. The most common age group among people committed to jail was 25-34. 

Since 2017 there has been an increase in the number of prisoners on remand (in custody awaiting trial). 

The average number of those on remand was 707 in 2019, an increase on an average of 584 in 2017.

The Director General of the Irish Prison Service, Caron McCaffrey, said that prisoners on remand are facing more serious criminal charges in recent years.

A new communications portal and infection control teams for preventing the spread of infection among prisoners and staff were launched last year.

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The Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan, said these teams put in place last year have made a “significant contribution” to the handling of Covid-19 in Irish prisons.

To date, no person in the Irish prison system has been diagnosed with the disease. 

“It is vitally important these efforts should continue in order to maintain this remarkable safety record,” Flanagan said in a statement.

Protected Disclosure from prison staff

Eight allegations were received by the prison service for examination as part of the Protected Disclosure system in 2019.

These disclosures come from prison employees raising concern about wrongdoings they become aware of in relation to their employment. 

One investigation was transferred to the Department of Justice and seven were put forward for investigation.

Then Irish Prison Service received 545 Freedom of Information requests in 2019, 329 of which were from prisoners.  

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