Prison inspectors have warned the Justice Minister it is ridiculous to send people to jail for failing to pay a fine, it has been revealed.
In a report to Dermot Ahern, a special panel branded Mountjoy Prison overcrowded, unsafe, unhygienic and called on law makers to solve the problem of thousands of debtors being locked up.
The nine strong Visiting Committee said they refused to accept judges cannot be asked to look for an alternative.
"There continues to be a constant stream of fines committals, taking up inordinate amounts of time and effort. This situation is ridiculous and must cease," the Committee said.
The Committee said the Irish Prisons Service (IPS) continues to accept inmates from courts, without question, into unsafe, unhygienic and overcrowded conditions.
"We cannot accept that nobody can liaise with the judiciary on this issue," the Committee said. "Previously we pointed out that incarcerating people to these conditions is a punishment additional to the intended deprivation of freedom intended by the courts."
The Committee continued: "Legislators must assist in producing answers to this huge problem. There are still thousands of warrants for non-payment of fines in Garda stations awaiting execution."
The Department of Justice said Mr Ahern brought in new laws on alternatives to jail for debt in June. A spokeswoman also said Mr Ahern will shortly bring proposed legislation to Government requiring judges to consider using community service instead of a six-month prison sentence.
In a separate report, the Inspector of Prisons, Judge Michael Reilly, warned overcrowding was an acute problem in Irish jails. He said he accepted the Government had limited resources and must prioritise but insisted neither of these should be accepted as an excuse for depriving prisoners of basic human rights other than those removed by law.
Judge Reilly said a degree of overcrowding could be accepted but only if there a definite timeframe to solving the crisis.