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Plans to replace outdated Limerick Prison accommodation must not translate into penal expansionism - IPRT

11th June 2012

The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) has today welcomed the announcement by Minister Shatter of plans to replace outdated accommodation at Limerick Prison, including provision of in-cell sanitation, a dedicated committal unit and a high support unit. However, IPRT warns that any expansion in the number of cells at that prison must only be used to relieve overcrowding in other parts of the prison, and not serve to increase numbers accommodated at that prison.

The building of a new block of 100 cells represents an increase on the 55 cells which currently exist in the A and B wings (28 in A wing and 27 in B wing) at Limerick Prison. On 3rd November 2011, there were 104 prisoners accommodated in these wings, representing almost 200% of the single-cell design capacity.

Responding today, a spokesperson for IPRT said:

“Plans to replace the older sections of Limerick Prison, which are unfit for purpose, are to be welcomed. However, the building of 100 new cells at the prison represents an increase on the current design capacity of 55 in the A and B wings. It is essential that the Minister for Justice and the Irish Prison Service only increase the number of cells at that prison within the overall context of reducing prisoner numbers back to 2007 levels, as committed to in the IPS Strategic Plan 2012-2014. It is also essential that the provision of modern single-cell accommodation at Limerick Prison is matched with improved levels of regimes and services, which have been found by the Inspector of Prisons to be seriously lacking at that prison.”

Increasing the size of and numbers in prison does not - and will not - reduce levels of crime. Instead, building smaller prisons within the community, with emphasis on alternatives to custody and prison as a last resort, while investing in early intervention and prevention measures, is of far greater social and economic benefit to society.

For all media enquiries, please contact Fíona on 087 181 2990


1. Figures     

  • Limerick male prison comprises 4 Divisions, 2 of which - A Division and B Division, date from 1821 when the prison was built.  C Division and D Division were constructed in 2003 and 1998 respectively. There are 28 cells in A Division, 27 cells in B Division, 78 cells in C Division and 52 cells in D Division. (Source: Inspector of Prisons)
  • 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 were 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 April 2011, there were 41 female prisoners, which represents 170% of its design capacity. 

2. Inspector of Prisons – Reports

Reports on an inspection and follow up visits by the Inspector of Prisons published on 17th January 2012 revealed that the Inspector had 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.

The reports can be accessed here: http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/PB12000006

The Second Follow-up Report was published on 13th March, 2012 and can be accessed here: http://www.inspectorofprisons.ie/en/IOP/Pages/PB12000003

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.

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