To ask Her Majesty's Government what are the proportions of Catholic and Protestant prisoners in Northern Ireland; how that compares with the figures in the general population; what are the reasons for their relative numbers; and whether they have commissioned research on the matter. [HL3742]
At 18 May 2009 the breakdown of prisoners in Northern Ireland was as follows: Protestant 36.6 per cent, Roman Catholic 49.9 per cent, others 13.5 per cent.
The last recorded figures for the general population are those recorded in the NI Census of 2001: Protestant 53.1 per cent, Roman Catholic 43.8 per cent, others 3.1 per cent.
However, when making comparisons with the above figures it would be necessary to take into account differences in the age profiles and the eight-year time interval.
The Northern Ireland Prison Service has a legal obligation to accept everyone who is committed to prison by the courts and as such has no influence over particular religious groups entering the prison population.
The Northern Ireland Prison Service carried out a review of equality of opportunity of prisoners on the basis of religion, in relation to its Section 75 statutory duties. The resulting report The Inside View was published on 12 May 2009. A copy of the report has been placed in the Library of the House.