IPRT - Irish Penal Reform Trust

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Latest prison figures

27th June 2011

There were 4,433 people in prison custody in Ireland on 22nd June 2011; this is an increase of 66% since 2000, when there were 2,919 men and women held in Irish prisons. The Irish prisoner population reached 4,587 persons in custody on 12th April, 2011, the highest number recorded by IPRT.

A number of recent Dáil questions and debates have revealed the latest prison numbers, details of which are given here.

Prison Numbers & Conditions

  • Wheatfield Prison is now Ireland's largest prison, accommodating 683 prisoners on 20th June 2011; Midlands Prison held 592 on the same day, and Mountjoy Prison held 583. (The number of prisoners being held in Mountjoy has been reduced while reconstruction works are underway.)
  • In Mountjoy Prison, 32 men were held in cells of 5+ people; 20 in cells holding 4 people; and 30 in cells holding 3 people. Approx. two-thirds of prisoners in Mountjoy have to slop out. However, works are currently underway to install in-cell sanitation in 100 cells in the C wing, with an expected completion date of end summer 2011.
  • Cork Prison is still one of the most overcrowded in Ireland in Ireland with 305 prisoners held in a space that should hold no more than 146, according to the Inspector of Prisons; only 8 of Cork Prison's 144 cells have in-cell sanitation. Of the 29 men held in cells accommodating three prisoners, all would have to 'slop out' in the same cell where they eat meals. 
  • The number of women prisoners held in the Dóchas Centre was down from 140 to 129, but this is still 50% above design capacity; 14 of these women were sharing with two others. Recreational areas are currently used to accommodate prisoners in the Dóchas Centre; the conversion of an administration block into dormitory-style accommodation will see the prison's capacity increase by 70 this year.
  • Limerick female prison was holding 35 women in a space designed for 24, which means it is running at 145% capacity. Conditions are vastly inferior to those in the Dóchas Centre.
  • St Patrick's Institution was operating at slightly below capacity, holding 203 boys and young men in space with capacity for 218 (20 June 2011); there were 41 boys aged 16 and 17 in St Patrick's on 15th June 2011, which is in breach of international human rights standards.
  • There were 457 prisoners in Cloverhill Prison, which is a remand prison on 20 June 2011. 116 prisoners of these were sharing with three others. There is in-cell sanitation in Cloverhill Prison but approx. 85% have to use the toilet facilities in front of others.

Prison Building

400 additional prisoner places are also due to come on stream by mid-2012. 70 of these new places will be at the Dóchas Centre, as detailed above; 300 will be at Midlands Prison, which has a current capacity of 616 (Irish Prison Service) or 477 (Inspector of Prisons). Whichever figure is used, bed capacity or design capacity, Midlands will become the largest prison in Ireland.

The Thorton Hall review group, which is examining whether the Irish Prison Service should proceed with its planned super-prison in north Dublin, is due to report on their findings on Friday, 1st July 2011. IPRT is strongly opposed to the building of a super-prison on the Thornton Hall site: expansion of the Irish prison estate will only serve to increase the numbers of people in prison, and thus the social and economic costs to society; it will do nothing to reduce crime or address the causes of crime in Ireland.

Rehabilitation & Reintegration

  • During 2010, approximately 35% of the prison population attended classes; this means 65% of the prison population did not.
  • Integrated Sentence Management (ISM) is now in operation in twelve of the fourteen prisons. Approx. 1,700 prisoners were participating in ISM at the end of May 2011. To put this in perspective, there are around 15,500 prison committals (12,500 individuals) every year, of which 10,500 are sentenced committals. Almost 85% of sentenced committals are for sentences of 12 months or less (2009 figures) and so are not eligible to benefit from ISM.

27.4% of prisoners return to prison within 1 year of release; 45% within 3 years; and 49.2% within 4 years. Analysis predicts that 60% of those with recent prison experience will return to prison. It is of critical importance that rehabilitative services and support on release is made available to all prisoners across the prison estate, and that ISM is made available to all prisoners, no matter how short their sentence.

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