Belfast Telegraph

Number of inmates in Northern Ireland prisons up by 15%

BY MARIA MARSELLA

The prison population in Northern Ireland is on the rise.

The Department of Justice has announced a rise in the average number of prisoners by 5%, but the number has been steadily rising since 2010.

The average in 2010 was 1,465, 1,682 in 2011 and 1,774 in 2012, meaning that prisons have had a 15% rise in inmates.

Younger offenders made up the majority, with 52% of prisoners aged between 17 and 29.

Around 62% of all prisoners are behind bars for committing a violent offence, including sexual offences or robbery.

The statistics are inclusive of all prisons across Northern Ireland.

Mairaid McMahon from Niacro, which resettles offenders, said there could be many reasons behind the increase.

"It could be the creation of new offences, or people being caught up in rioting. There are people being put in prison because there is no other way to deal with them.

"We need more community based disposals rather than custodial based disposals."

When asked about the age of many prisoners, she said: "We are really concerned that so many young people are being sentenced to periods of imprisonment.

"People with criminal records often find it extremely difficult to access training and employment opportunities in the future, not to mention the restrictions on international travel."

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