Writing in the Irish Examiner, Cormac O’Keeffe reports on measures being taken to try and keep the prison population in Mountjoy below 600. O'Keeffe points out that this is still 60 short of what the Inspector of Prisons is calling for, but 80 less than the prison population in May.
The article reports that Minister Ahern has said numbers in Mountjoy would be cut by:
- Creating 100 new prison spaces at Castlerea Prison, with a further 400 spaces at Wheatfield and Portlaoise.
- Reducing imprisonment for non-payment of fines, following the introduction of a new Fines Bill 2009.
- Reopening of the Separation Unit in Mountjoy with 30 cells (56 beds) to take protection prisoners.
The article cites Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) as saying that the latest report provided "incontrovertible and devastating evidence" of chronic conditions at the country’s largest jail and said it should act as a "watershed" for the penal system.
"We need a clear statement from the minister that he will commit to addressing the urgent issues identified in this report, and that he will give the support and leadership necessary to the Irish Prison Service," said the trust’s Liam Herrick.