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Parts of Limerick Prison 'not fit for purpose' - report

The Minister for Justice has expressed “shock” at a report on conditions at Limerick Prison, which highlights issues of overcrowding, cleanliness and hygiene, staffing, physical conditions and repairs.

Image: Niall Carson/PA Archive/Press Association Images

LIMERICK PRISON DOES not comply with best practice and certain areas of the facility are not fit for purpose, according to an inspector’s report published by the Minister for Justice today.

An examination of the prison by the Inspector of Prisons, Judge Michael Reilly, has raised a number of serious issues about the facility, including concerns about overcrowding and poor conditions.

Reilly said he remained concerned about several ongoing problems at the prison which were first identified during a previous inspection. Such issues related to cleanliness, hygiene and “slopping out”, staffing, physical conditions and repairs.

The prison did not “comply with best practice and certain areas of the prison are not fit for purpose”, according to Reilly. He added it was essential that “regime changes” occur at the facility.

However, the report concluded that the observations did not amount to a “total condemnation” of the prison, and the inspector expressed hope that the prison could continue to play a role in the Irish prison system – providing the concerns outlined in the report were addressed.

In the past year, both the Irish Human Rights Commission and the UN Committee Against Torture have released reports condemning conditions at Irish prisons.

Minister for Justice ‘disappointed and shocked’

Upon viewing the report, the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said that he was “disappointed and indeed shocked” that management at Limerick Prison had not addressed the deficiencies previously identified by the inspector.

While recognising the “limited resources and difficult times generally” with which prison management had to contend, Shatter nonetheless called the failure to address problems as “unacceptable”. He requested that the newly-appointed Director General of the Irish Prison Service to take immediate steps to address the issues.

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The Director General has put an Action Plan in place for the prison, which sets specific objectives and timeframes for implementing the recommendations – most of which, he said, are hoped to be addressed in the short-to-medium term.

Under the plan, programmes are to be put in place for:

  • Improving sanitation facilities
  • Cleaning and refurbishment
  • Replacement of broken windows
  • Installation of vandal-proof phones
  • New arrangements to ensure the opening of the library
  • Training for staff
  • Improving conditions generally for prisoners and staff throughout the prison

Shatter noted that a number of recommendations had been put in place, including:

  • Toilet patrols put in place
  • Painting programme established
  • Cleaning programme established
  • Refurbishment and repairs to be undertaken and implemented within certain timeframes
  • New arrangements to ensure the opening of the library
  • Identification badges being worn by all staff since 1 December 2011

Read: The reports on Limerick Prison>

Read: Deep concern expressed by UN at levels of overcrowding in Irish prisons>

Read: Human rights commission issues hard-hitting UN ‘report card’>

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