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Dublin: 10°C Wednesday 10 August 2022

Government considering construction of replacement Cork prison

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter says that building a new prison facility in Cork could comprehensively tackle overcrowding and the ongoing practice of ‘slopping out’.

File photo of a prison cell.
File photo of a prison cell.
Image: Paul Faith/PA Wire

THE MINISTER FOR Justice has said that the government is considering the construction of a new prison in Cork to replace the current overcrowded facility.

Alan Shatter had called on the Irish Prison Service’s director general Michael Donnellan to come up with a number of proposals for tackling the chronic overcrowding at the Cork prison. Those recommendations were published today by the IPS.

Currently, Cork prison has 141 cells, none of which have in-cell sanitation, and it has bed space for 272 prisoners. The average daily prison population in 2011 was 295 prisoners. Last year the prison saw a 74 per cent increase in committals to the facility on 2007’s figure – a total of 2,600 committals in 2011.

In its report, the IPS recommends exploring the feasibility of constructing a new replacement 150-cell prison on a car park adjacent to the current facility, with capacity for around 250 prisoners. The new prison would end the ongoing practice of ‘slopping out’ by providing full in-cell sanitation.

It also recommends reducing the demand for prison beds by enhancing “sentence management, prisoner interventions and [through the] structured release of suitably risk assessed prisoners into the community on a multi-agency approach basis”.

That multi-agency approach would include the Probation Service, with which the IPS is developing mechanism for coordinating efforts between Cork prison and community-based services to identify programmes which would act as viable alternatives to custody for certain short-term prisoners, according to the Department of Justice.

Responding to the IPS report, Minister Shatter said that using the car park as a site for a new facility would “ensure value for money for the taxpayer”. However, he has asked department officials to look into alternative cost-effective sites.

He said that the IPS has been asked to prepare plans for the development of a new Cork prison within the existing Justice Capital Programme 2012-2016, and a final decision on the project will be made “when detailed plans, design and costs have been finalised”.

“The intention is not simply to relieve overcrowding,” Shatter added, “but also to develop a more integrated approach to the management of offenders while in custody and on release into the community.”

“Building a bridge from the community into the prison ensures that prisoners can tap into, at an earlier stage, the available supports and programmes in their communities, which is essential in aiding their reintegration back into the community on release from prison and reducing repeat offending.”

In the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform’s capital spending announcement last November, Minister Brendan Howlin said that the Thornton Hall prison development programme was being deferred, but that €24.1 million would be spent on a Prison Service Building Programme.

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