An article, written by John Mooney and Philip Connelly, in the print version of The Sunday Times reported on plans for cell block extensions at a number of Irish prisons in an attempt to reduce overcrowding "as uncertainty continues to hang over the development of a “super” facility in north Dublin."
The article reports that the decision to add to existing prisons is a shift away from the government’s plan to accommodate up to 2,200 prisoners at Thornton Hall, which is now being described as a “long-term” project by the Irish Prison Service (IPS).
The article details planning permissions sought and construction work already begun and expected to start later this year, including another extension to Wheatfield Prison, which will house an extra 200 inmates when completed. The Thornton Hall project has cost the state €42m to date.
The article states that last week the prison population was 4,276 for a bed capacity of just 4,066; Mountjoy prison is permanently operating at above-capacity levels.
The article quotes Fine Gael spokesperson on justice, Charlie Falanagan: “That particular project is at best described as a waste of tax-payers’ money. At worst, it’s a national scandal.”
The article also quotes a prison service spokesman as stating that overcrowding in prisons is an international problem and is not unique to Ireland.
The Irish Penal Reform Trust is also calling for “spent convictions legislation” that would allow minor offenders not to disclose their criminal record when seeking work, thus reducing reoffending rates.