According to statistics contained in the Annual Report of the Irish Prison Service for 2022, more than 20% of those committed to prison last year were of other than Irish nationality.
The actual term used is that the 78.4% of those listed as being of Irish nationality, “self-reported as Irish nationals.”
That terminology was not used in previous years, so perhaps that number includes persons born outside of Ireland who claim, either having acquired citizenship or perhaps some other subjective basis, that they are Irish? A similar distinction can be identified in the Census but not in the prison report.
The figure is notably higher than the 12% of “non-citizens” that was reported by the mainstream media in its stories about the statistics contained in the report by the Central Statistics Office on the population and demographic aspects of Census 2022.
However, as Gript demonstrated, this was a rather misleading take on those figures, as the Census showed that over one million people living in the Irish state at the time the Census was taken had been born outside of Ireland.
The actual % of persons living in the state who are of other than Irish nationality was 19%. That number is obviously higher now given the fact that more than 100,000 new migrants have arrived here since the Census was taken on April 3, 2022. That and other factors would suggest that the % of persons living in the Republic who are of other than Irish nationality is above 21%.
The overall accuracy of the Census is itself something that might be examined in more detail. Gript has heard directly from households who claim that their form was not collected. A Freedom of Information request which I submitted to the CSO elicited the fact that of a total of 1,851,512 forms distributed to households, that 81,275 – or 4.89% – were not collected.
The percentage of non-national prisoners committed to Irish prisons is higher than any reported statistic on the number of non-nationals living within the state. It may even be close enough to the actual percentage, and of course the vast majority of persons who have come to live here are, like the vast majority of Irish people, completely law-abiding and of good conduct.
The comparative statistics from our nearest neighbour are interesting. In March this year, the British Ministry of Justice reported that of the overall prison population in England and Wales comprised of both sentenced and remand prisoners that 12% were non-nationals. That is slightly below the estimated non-national population in the UK which was 14% in 2020. The equivalent figure for federal prisoners in the United States in 2019 was 20% foreign born.
On a happier note, a comparison with the statistics from earlier years show that the overall numbers of prisoners committed to Irish jails has fallen dramatically over the past decade or so. In 2015 there were a total of 14,182 persons committed to prison within the state. That had fallen to just 5,801 in 2022.
Before anyone does a basic mental math calculation and compares this to the level and perception of crime, there is one key reason for the dramatic drop in the numbers of people who have spent time in prison. That has been the almost complete end to sentencing by the courts for failure to pay a court imposed fine.
The number of people sent to prison in 2016, usually for extremely short periods of time, was 8,439. Last year, just 205 people were sent to prison for not paying a fine. That of course is a good thing, and presumably where someone is sentenced then that is commensurate with the nature of the offence for which the fine was imposed.
However, stripped of the huge numbers of persons committed and subsequently sentenced for non-payment of fines it is evident that the numbers being sent to prison for more serious offences has increased over the longer term.
The statistics found in the breakdown of offences for which people are serving sentences has mostly changed little since 2016. Last year there were 410 persons serving a sentence for homicide compared to 408 in 2016. There are likewise very little changes in the numbers sentenced for burglary, other thefts and controlled drugs offences.
The most dramatic increase over that period has been in convictions and sentences for sexual offences, the numbers having risen from 377 in 2016 to 524 in 2022. That represents an increase of just under 40%.
The comparison over the 15 year period between 2007 and 2022 is even starker, on several metrics. The number of persons in prison for homicide has risen from 228, an increase of 80%.
Those serving sentences for sexual offences had more than doubled, from 237 in 2007. There was an 18% fall in the number of persons serving time for drug offences.
I am not certain what significance it has but the number of persons serving a sentence for controlled drug offences peaked in 2010 at 852, so that number has massively fallen by 55%. The question as to whether a seemingly more lenient sentencing policy has succeeded in lessening the problem of serious drug abuse and associated criminality and social dysfunction is perhaps a subjective one.