Why are people from some Irish counties six times more likely to end up imprisoned than in others?

THE odds of people from some Irish counties being sent to prison is almost six times higher than the chances for other counties.

People with a Limerick address have by far the highest chance of ending up in jail, an analysis of Irish Prison Service data has revealed.

Only two counties exceeded an average of 500 prison committals per 100,000 of population in the two years examined: Limerick (561) and Co Longford (528).

By contrast, the chances of someone with a Donegal address winding up in jail were a fraction of that of Limerick.

In Donegal, the prison committal rate per 100,000 of population was just 97, making it – by this measure at least – the most law-abiding county in Ireland.

Other counties with very low rates of imprisonment for residents included Meath, Mayo, and Leitrim.

Dublin with by far the largest population was almost identical to the national average with a rate of 285 incarcerations per 100,000 people.

All told, more than 12,700 people were sent to jail in 2014 with that figure rising to almost 13,500 during 2015.

The numbers are remarkably low in some counties with just 83 people from Leitrim imprisoned over the two years. By contrast, Longford, with only a slightly bigger population, had 412 of its residents sent to jail.

The national average was 285 committals per 100,000 of population, with several counties including Laois, Wexford, Kilkenny, Galway, and Dublin all in and around that figure.

Cork, the other big population centre in Ireland, had a far higher rate of imprisonment. For every 100,000 people there, 391 are sent to prison each year, with almost the same figure applying to Co Waterford.

There are also stark provincial differences with Munster having the highest rate of incarceration, mainly because of the levels in Limerick and Cork.

Leinster was next coming in just below the national average, with Connacht third of the four.

The three counties of Ulster had by far the lowest rates of imprisonment with just 135 committals per 100,000 of population there.

For those that do end up in prison, the chances of them serving a lengthy sentence appears to have dropped considerably in the last five years.

In 2010, there were 344 prisoners given a jail term of five years or more. However, by the end of 2015, that had dropped to 240.

The number of people sentenced to life – all convicted murderers – has remained fairly constant however, over the years.

In 2015, there were nineteen prisoners given life, compared to 25 the year before. Numbers have generally been in the low twenties for the past decade.

Most of the people sent to jail however, get much shorter sentences of less than three months.

In 2015, the last year for which full figures are available, nearly three in four people imprisoned got a term of less than ninety days.

There has also been a massive rise in the number of women going to prison, according to official figures.

In 2001, fewer than 1,000 women were sent to jail but fifteen years later, that figure had risen to almost 3,000.

Two of those women were imprisoned for homicide offences, either murder or manslaughter, compared to 42 men.

There were 153 sex offenders sent to jail in 2015, none of whom were women. However, the previous year – two women had been jailed for sexual offences.

More than 550 people were imprisoned for murder attempts, threats to kill, and serious assaults – 41 of them female.

Just over 350 people got jailed for fraud, deception and other similar offences, with 59 of them women and 298 men.

Overall, the vast majority of those sent to jail were from either Ireland, the UK, or the European Union, making up 95% of the total.

Also imprisoned were 268 African people, 194 Asians, 49 from South or Central America, 14 from North America, and three from Australia or Oceania.

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