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'Slopping Out' - an inhuman and degrading practice (updated)

30th January 2011

The Irish Prison Service has announced that work is to commence on the refurbishment of 36 cells in the basement of the 'C' wing of Mountjoy Prison, including the installation of proper sanitation facilities. The work is due to be completed in July 2011.

While this is a very welcome development, it is worth putting it in context:

  • Mountjoy prison currently has 369 cells which require prisoners to slop out
  • There were 515 prisoners slopping out in Mountjoy on 17th Dec 2010. 
  • Overcrowding is a serious problem in Mountjoy which currently has a bed capacity of 630 but which regularly accommodates around 700 prisoners.
  • The Inspector of Prisons has consistently maintained that the prison should never hold more than 540 prisoners.

In other words, 36 cells represents just 10% of the cells where prisoners have to slop out in Mountjoy - and this is just one Irish prison: another 300 prisoners slop out in similarly overcrowded conditions in Cork Prison; prisoners also slop out in Portlaoise and Limerick male prisons.

On 17th Dec 2010, 1,003 men were required to slop out in Irish prisons, including:

  • Mountjoy Prison: 515 prisoners slopping out, many in shared cells
  • Cork Prison: 299 prisoners slopping out, all in shared cells (sharing with 1-2 others)
  • Portlaoise Prison: 51 prisoners slopping out
  • Limerick Prison (male): 99 prisoners slopping out

The IPS has stated that the current project in Mountjoy Prison, which will provide accommodation for up to 72 prisoners (doubling up), will provide an opportunity to examine the "structural, operational and economic feasibility" of providing flushing toilets and wash hand basins to all of the cells in the C wing, which means 65 cells in total. This is again very welcome.

However, IPRT is calling on Government and the Irish Prison Service to:

  • create a plan to end slopping out completely by a fixed date
  • take interim measures to mitigate the effects of slopping out on prisoners
  • as a matter of urgency, end the combination of overcrowding and slopping out. To this end, a specific plan must be put in place to address the situation in Cork, Mountjoy and Limerick Prisons immediately.

For more detailed information on the current situation in Irish prisons, please see the IPRT Briefing on Sanitation and Slopping Out in the Irish Prison System, available below.

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