The number of Irish citizens serving prison sentences abroad has more than doubled in the last three years.
There are 1,054 known cases of Irish people incarcerated abroad; the majority in Britain, 20 Irish people are in jails across Europe, four in Australia, three in Africa, three in Asia and 41 in North America.
Seven Irish people are serving sentences in South and Central American prisons, mostly for drug related offences.
The recently released figures from the Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas (ICPO), show a sharp increase in Irish people being locked up abroad, from 444 in 2010, 707 in 2011, 632 last year to 1,054 this year.
“In some countries prison conditions are a major cause of concern and prisoners experience extreme hardship, with limited access to food, water, and medical treatment. Prison overcrowding is a serious problem in some countries,” said the ICPO.
The organization, which is based in Maynooth, Co. Kildare, noted a rise in the number of young people coming to the attention of the ICPO from Australia.
“This seems to correlate with the recent increase of Irish people living, travelling and working in this country,” the statement said.
The prisoners also receive Christmas and St Patrick’s Day mail from the organization.
“For some prisoners this may be the only communication that they have with the outside world.
“The ICPO feedback is that clients greatly appreciate this communications link with home,” the organization said in a statement.
The council was set up in 1895 by the Irish Catholic bishops to identify and respond to the needs of Irish prisoners abroad and their families.