16th January 2019
It has been reported in The Irish Times by Conor Lally (14.01.2019) that a spokesperson for the Department of Justice and Equality has confirmed that the bulk of a site at Thornton Hall, which was once designated to be Ireland’s first ‘super prison’, has been offered to the Land Development Agency for housing.
The 165-acre site at Thornton Hall was named as the site for the development of a 2,200 capacity prison in 2005. IPRT has campaigned against Thornton Hall prison development plans from their inception and has welcomed the announcement that the plans for the ‘super-prison’ have been cancelled. We believe that the news demonstrates positive progress in Irish penal policy over the last 10 years.
Since 2011, we have seen a more evidence-informed approach to penal policy in Ireland, and the broad recognition by Government that prison building does not solve overcrowding. A spokesperson for the Department told The Irish Times that the ‘super-prison’ envisaged in 2005 by the then government was now regarded, in modern penal policy terms, as “counterproductive”.
Key points, demonstrating a move towards more progressive penal policy over the period since the inception of the plans include:
Some of IPRT’s key outputs contributing to the decision by policy-makers not to proceed with plans to build a super-prison are outlined here.
Although IPRT has welcomed this more evidence-informed approach to prison policy in Ireland, we have emphasised in Irish Legal News that:
“IPRT’s research shows only 5 of Ireland’s 10 closed prisons are within the best practice maximum of 300 spaces, and Mountjoy and Midlands prisons are significantly larger with 845 and 755 spaces respectively. Large prisons are a costly, socially harmful and largely ineffective response to crime.
“IPRT has called on the Department of Justice and Equality to ensure that any future prison renewal programme does not expand the overall prison population and is guided by a commitment to prison sizes of less than 300, and ideally a maximum of 250 spaces. Accommodating prisoners in smaller, local prisons near families and communities is proven to better support rehabilitation and therefore promote public safety.”
If this welcome shift toward more progressive penal policy is continued, we believe that there will be no further large prisons built because there will be no demand to justify their development.
For more on IPRT’s positions on effective and human penal systems, see our annual flagship project ‘Progress in the Penal System’.