18th July 2016
Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald TD performed the official opening of the new Cork Prison today, Monday 18th July 2016.
The building of a new prison to replace the unfit conditions that existed in the old Cork Prison, during a time of limited fiscal resources, demonstrates a real commitment by the Tánaiste and the Department of Justice to addressing serious human rights issues in Irish prisons, including slopping out and overcrowding. IPRT strongly welcomes this.
The new prison has an official capacity of 296, with in-cell sanitation in all cells and improved facilities, including outdoor green spaces and family visiting facilities. However, while welcoming the significant improvements, IPRT is disappointed that the new prison operates a cell-sharing policy, and not single cell accommodation which is best practice and supports safer prisons.
It is essential now that the significant capital investment in the new Cork Prison is met with adequate medical, education and training resources to ensure that prison regimes in Cork can support the Irish Prison Service mission of providing safe and secure custody, supporting better rehabilitation and public safety.
It also important that recent community-based initiatives that have safely reduced the numbers in prison - such as the Community Return Programme and, in particular, Unlocking Community Alternatives- A Cork Approach- continue, and are adequately resourced and regularly evaluated.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, the Tánaiste restated her commitments to abolishing slopping out in Irish prisons completely, with refurbishment plans at Limerick and Portlaoise Prisons at an advanced stage. Since 2011, the number of men slopping out in prison in Ireland has been reduced from just over 1,000 to around 85 today. That is welcome progress.
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