Plans to Look at Prison Capacity Announced
The Minister for Justice Simon Harris attended the Prison Officer Association Conference in Galway where he announced plans to increase prison capacity in existing prisons across the country.
The need for additional prison spaces arises because of significant population growth in recent years, as well as planned population growth in the coming years. It also arises due to increases in judicial resources and increasing numbers of Gardaí.
Speaking at the conference Minister Harris said, “this week I brought a memo to Government outlining capacity issues in prisons – both in terms of the scale of the problem faced and how we might progress medium and longer-term solutions for it. Working with Officials in my department and the Prison Service, I have identified 4 short-term capital projects at Castlrea, Cloverhill, the Midlands and Mountjoy prisons that could deliver over 400 prison spaces over the next 5 years.”
“This would provide accommodation for a minimum of 620 additional prisoners. I will now engage with my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform on this with a view to progressing an agreed schedule of capital builds across the prison estate. Provisional figures from the Irish Prison Service show there were 7,055 committals to prison in 2022, an increase of 919 (15%) on 2021 figures (6,136).”
The Minister continued, “the government is committed to building stronger, safer communities and to progressing policies aimed at diverting people away from the criminal justice system where appropriate. I also recently approved a number of measures aimed at reducing pressures in the prison system through the use of different schemes, and I have expedited the review of sentence remission. However, the important work of the Review of Policy Options for Prison and Penal Reform and these recent measures will only take us so far in reducing numbers in prison.”
Over the last number of years the government has provided and will continue to provide significant capital funding to the Irish Prison Service in order to enhance the existing prison infrastructure.
These projects include the commissioning of a new male and female prison accommodation in Limerick Prison providing an additional 90 male spaces and 22 additional female cell spaces. This new male accommodation is now open and the female accommodation is expected to become operational later this year. In addition the opening of the training unit in Mountjoy last year provided an additional 96 spaces.