Irish Voters Feel Offenders With Mental Illness Should Be Treated

A poll commissioned by the Irish Penal Reform Trust has found that the majority of voters surveyed prefer non-custodial programmes over prison for most offenders.

According to the Trust, the TNS/MRBI poll showed that a majority of voters across all political parties would prefer to see most offenders diverted away from prison into non custodial programmes that add­ress the root causes of their offending and/or supervise them in the community.

Respondents to the survey, which was conducted in January with a nationally representative sample of 1,000 people, preferred to divert non-violent offenders away from prison and into drug treatment programmes, mental health programmes or sentence them to community services.

Non-violent offenders make up 80 per cent of committals to prisons in Ireland each year said Mr Rick Lines, Executive Director of the IPRT.

The poll also found that:

• 91 per cent of respondents believe that offenders with mental illness should be treated in a mental health facility instead of being sent to prison;

• 81 per cent believe that offenders with a drug addiction should be placed in drug recovery programmes instead of serving a prison sentence;

• 74 per cent are in favour of using alternatives to prison when dealing with young offenders;

• 66 per cent of respondents believe that people come out of prison worse than they go in;

• 44 per cent agree that criminalising drug use causes more problems than it prevents. Only 28 per cent disagreed.

“This research shows clearly that the Irish electorate has a much more sophisticated understanding of crime and punishment issues than they are given credit for by the main political parties or by much of the media,” said Mr Lines.

He added that it also shows that “public concern about crime in no way translates into widespread demand for the types of knee-jerk ‘get tough’ policies being peddled by the Government and main Opp­osition parties in the run up to the election”.