On the 5th of March 2014, The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defense, Mr. Alan Shatter, published the Limerick Prison Visiting Committee Annual Report 2013. The function of Visiting Committees, appointed by the Minister, is to visit the prison and hear any complaints which may be made to them by any prisoner to ensure the quality of accommodation and catering, medical, educational and welfare services and recreational facilities.
Concerns highlighted in the Limerick Prison Visiting Committee Annual Report 2013.
- 'Significant improvement in the overcrowding through prisoner management'. This has been enabled by prisoner transfer to other prisons with capacity. However, in January 2014, there were 205 male prisoners and 31 female prisoners which still exceeded the design capacity of Limerick Prison for 185 male prisoners and 24 female prisoners as recommended by the Inspector of Prisons.
- The number of Protected Regime Prisoners continues to be a cause of concern and the committee welcomes the commencement of the census of Protected Regime Prisoners.
- The training and range of activities available for females, particularly those serving shorter sentences, needs to be expanded on and tailored to be more effective.
- The committee is concerned that a more family friendly visiting regime be introduced. 'We are aware of the potential difficulties associated with changing the current arrangements but believe that the bond between children and their mother must be nurtured and protected and this is not possible in the current visiting environment'.
In an accompanying press release by the Department of Justice, Minister Shatter gave continuing commitments to the enhancement of family visiting regimes in Limerick Prison. The Minister said that
"A programme of works has already been agreed to improve visiting arrangements in Limerick Prison. In early 2012 the Director General instructed that a Families and Imprisonment Group be established in order to examine how family supports available to prisoners can be maintained and strengthened. A key element of this study is how visiting arrangements can be rendered more family and child friendly. Specific improvements to visits areas for both males and females have been identified. These include:
· Redecoration to improve appearance
· Improvements to acoustics
· Redesigned lighting
· Introduction of table and chair visiting arrangements, particularly for female prisoners with children and male prisoners on the enhanced regime.
It is expected that work in these areas will be completed by Spring 2014".