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Monday 30 January 2023 Dublin: 7°C
Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland Portlaoise prison
# Criminal
Prisoners sleeping on floors as overcrowding a 'serious issue,' prison officers warn
The prison population in Ireland has seen the number of inmates rise by hundreds in Irish prisons over the past three years.

PRISONERS ARE SLEEPING on mattresses on the floors of Irish prisons due to overcrowding, the Prison Officers Association has said.

The prison population in Ireland has seen the number of inmates rise by hundreds in Irish prisons over the past three years.

The President of the IPO said the issue was creating an environment of bullying and intimidation, warning that both prisoners and guards are being put at risk as a result.

“Prisoners sleeping on mattresses on floors is becoming an all too common sight again yet our open centres remain below capacity,” President of the POA, Tony Power said.

“Prisoner numbers have continued to rise year-on-year from 3,745 in April 2017 to 3,890 in April 2018, and up again to 4,049 in April 2019.”

Overcrowding was leading to “the perfect atmosphere for the bully to thrive and exert huge pressure on vulnerable prisoners,” the POA warned.

“Serious violence is often part of the scenario here and we prison officers pay the inevitable price,” Power said.

“Overcrowding puts both prisoners and prison officers at unnecessary risk and this is totally unacceptable,” he added.

There are 12 prisons located around Ireland each with varying degrees of security – Portlaoise Prison is Ireland’s only maximum security prison which accommodates prisoners referred from the Special Criminal Court.

Power called on the Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan to address overcrowding as a “historic issue” and as “a matter of urgency”.

“None of us want a return to the ‘pack ‘em, stack ‘em and rack ‘em days’ of the past, where both prisoners and prison officers pay a heavy price – you simply should not allow this to happen on your watch,” he said.

Meanwhile, Irish Prison Service data for 2017 shows that 95% of women who were incarcerated received sentences for crimes such as shoplifting or handling stolen goods.

Substance abuse and homelessness were the main reasons behind the offences, according to experts.

1,081 women and 6,403 men received prison sentences in Ireland, according to 2017 Irish Prison Service figures.

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