The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) welcomes the publication of the Inspector of Prisons’ Report on an Inspection of Limerick Prison, First follow up Report on Limerick Prison and Action plan for IOP Limerick Report, published today (17 January 2012). Although the reports point to serious deficiencies in Limerick Prison, IPRT believes it is significant that an action plan to address the problems has been put in place; moreover, that is has been made public immediately indicates a positive move towards increased accountability. IPRT also welcomes the Minister for Justice’s unequivocal acknowledgment of the problems at the prison.
The reports reveal that over the period of a number of visits to the prison over 2010 and 2011, the Inspector found up to 329 male prisoners held in cells designed for 185 (and up to 41 women in space for 24) in conditions that were consistently dirty and unhygienic, with most having nothing to do all day as only one of the prison’s ten workshops was open.
Responding to the publication of the reports, Liam Herrick, Executive Director of the Irish Penal Reform Trust, said:
“These reports by the Inspector show, on the one hand, an alarming failure to address basic deficiencies in Limerick over an extended period of time, including failures to repair broken windows, address prison hygiene or repair plumbing failures.
“However, in the last two months there has been some progress, with follow up visits by the Inspector leading to crucial improvements, and the Irish Prison Service putting an Action Plan in place to address the Inspector’s recommendations. The fact that the Minister has published these reports immediately and unequivocally accepted its recommendations is a very positive step as well.
"While we very much welcome the immediate publication of the latest Report and Action Plan as a positive move towards transparency and accountability, it is crucial now that the Action Plan is met.”
A previous deadline of 1st July 2011 set by the Inspector of Prisons for action on issues including dirty areas of prisons, unpainted areas of prisons, unacceptable conditions of cells, broken or leaking equipment, and broken windows, had not been met by the time of the November inspection. However, these issues have since been largely addressed, according to the follow-up report.
Among the serious issues which still remain to be addressed are:
- Chronic overcrowding
- Unsanitary conditions throughout the prison
- Call bells not functioning in cells, which could amount to a life and death issue
- The acute need for a high-support unit for vulnerable prisoners
- The need for a drug-free landing
- Insufficient regimes, with nine workshops closed (one open) and Integrated Sentencing Management not in operation; both workshops in the female prison were closed
- Reports of low-level abuse and intimidation of prisoners by staff
For all media enquiries, or to arrange an interview with Liam Herrick, please contact:
Fíona Ní Chinnéide, Campaigns & Communications Officer, Irish Penal Reform Trust
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
- Limerick male prison: has a design capacity of 185 (according to the Inspector of Prisoners), and a bed capacity of 290. It regularly runs at more than 150% of its design capacity.
- On 27th August 2011, there 329 male prisoners, which represents 177% of its design capacity.
- Limerick female prison has a design capacity of 24, and a bed capacity of 34. It regularly runs at more than 140% of its design capacity.
- On 11th Feb 2011, there were 41 female prisoners, which represents 170% of its design capacity.
Inspector of Prisons – Reports
The following were published by the Minister for Justice on 17th January, 2012:
- Report on an Inspection of Limerick Prison
- First follow up Report on Limerick Prison
- Action plan for IOP Limerick Report
- Statement by the Director General of the Irish Prison Service regarding the publication of the Inspector of Prisons Report on Limerick Prison
These documents an be accessed here: http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/PB12000006
3. Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) | www.iprt.ie
IPRT is Ireland's leading non-governmental organisation campaigning for the rights of everyone in prison and the progressive reform of Irish penal policy, with prison as a last resort.