10th November 2011
The Irish Penal Reform Trust, Ireland’s leading penal reform campaign group, has today expressed grave concern at the failure to address the lack of in-cell sanitation in Cork Prison, which consistently runs at 200% of its design capacity, while the organization acknowledged as significant the Minister for Justice’s commitment to providing in-cell sanitation in the B and C wings of Mountjoy Prison in 2012. Details of prison building projects in 2012 emerged following the publication today (10th November, 2011) of the Medium Term Exchequer Framework 2012-2016.
Speaking in response to the capital spend announcements, IPRT Executive Director, Liam Herrick said:
IPRT is gravely concerned at the ongoing failure to address conditions in Cork Prison. While the pledge to extend in-cell sanitation in Mountjoy’s B-wing is positive, there has been no action at all to address the chronic situation in Cork Prison, where more than 270 men in shared cells have to slop out. The urgency of the situation in Cork Prison was firmly stated by the Thornton Hall Review Group in its recent report, in which they acknowledged that cork prison should be ”closed on the earliest possible occasion.” IPRT wholly agreed with the Review Group that “doing nothing” is not an option, but the Government’s approach in Budget 2012 seems to be precisely to “do nothing” in relation to Cork Prison.
As IPRT made clear to the Thornton Hall Review Group, the first priority must be to bring the prison population down by exhausting all measures available, and to improve existing conditions before building expensive new prisons. In that regards, the commitment to improving conditions at Mountjoy within the limited resources available is positive and long overdue. However, we need assurance from the Government that prisoner numbers will be reduced, ideally to 2005 levels when there were 3,315 in custody; that conditions in Cork Prison will be addressed with urgency; and that it will meet its commitment to end the imprisonment of children in St Patrick’s Institution.
IPRT strongly believes that the combination of overcrowding and slopping out leaves the Irish state open to future legal action by prisoners, as has also been observed by the Inspector of Prisons and the Thornton Hall Review Group. The failure to address the slopping out issue in Scotland led to a successful legal challenge which has forced the Scottish authorities to set aside over £60m for compensation payments to affected prisoners. Any prison building programme should address substandard prison conditions, and should not be used to expand the number of prison places.
On this announcement, IPRT is calling on Government to:
Lower recidivism rates and fewer people going to prison would demonstrate that Ireland’s prison system and our wider social policies were effective and creating a safer society for all. Increasing the size of and numbers in our prisons does not - and will not - reduce levels of crime. It merely serves to increase prisoner numbers, which Ireland simply cannot afford. 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, will be of far greater benefit to society.
For all media enquiries, or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Fíona Ní Chinnéide, Campaigns & Communications Officer, Irish Penal Reform Trust: T: + 353 1 874 1400;E: email@example.com
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
1. Prison numbers (figures do not include those out on temporary release):
2. Prison Occupancy
Occupancy rate of Irish prisons on 22 June 2011, based on design capacity (as identified by Inspector of Prisons) and on figures given in a Dáil Question, 23 June 2011:
Note: Mountjoy Prison is not included here as the capacity is reduced whilst renovation works are underway. However, crowding at that prison has been running at over 125% of its design capacity of 540, with 680-700 prisoners consistently held there, rising to 720 on occasion.
3. Slopping out
4. Violence in Irish prisons
There were 1,014 incidents of violence in 2010 (2.5 per day for a population of 4,300) which was a 25% increase on 814 (2 per day for a population of 3,800) in 2009, which itself was an increase from 759 incidences in 2008 (2 per day for a population of 3,500). (Sources: Irish Prison Service Annual Reports for each year.)
5. IPRT on Thornton Hall
IPRT has been opposed to the building of a large mixed-security prison on the Thornton Hall site from the outset; we have consistently raised our objections to the project on the basis of size, location, security-levels, and plans to co-locate facilities for young offenders, women offenders, those detained under immigration law, and the Central Mental Hospital (as was originally proposed.)
In July 2008, IPRT made a submission on the proposed prison project to the Oireachtas Justice Committee, and published a position paper: IPRT Position Paper 1: Thornton Hall.
In May 2011, IPRT made a written submission to the Review Group on Thornton Hall. In June 2011, IPRT met with the Review Group to discuss our submission:IPRT Submission to Thornton Hall Review Group.
The Report of Thornton Hall Project Review Group was published by the Minister for Justice on 28th July 2011. The report is available here.
6. Irish Penal Reform Trust | 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.