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Dublin: 6°C Wednesday 19 January 2022

There are currently 3,739 prisoners in Ireland - and we can't take many more

The average capacity is 91%.

IRELAND’S PRISON SERVICE is close to reaching its maximum capacity, with some prisons already over-capacity.

The Inspector of Prisons recommended that there should be a maximum of 3,982 prisoners in custody this year. As of 16 November, this figure stood at 3,739, or 94% of the advised total.

A full breakdown of capacity, number in custody and percentage of bed capacity is set out in the below table:

prison capacity

Justice Minister Francis Fitzgerald revealed the figures in the Dáil recently, in response to a parliamentary question from Bernard Durkan.

The average number of prisoners in custody in Ireland has risen in recent years, from 3,321 in 2007 to 4,318 during 2012 – an increase of over 30%.

Likewise, the total number of committals to prison has also risen sharply during the same period, from 11,934 in 2007 to 17,026 in 2012 – an increase of over 43%.

The first significant decrease in prison numbers since 2007 took place in 2013, when there were 15,735 committals to prison – a decrease of 7.6% on the 2012 figure.

Women’s prisons

Fitzgerald said that the Irish Prison Service and Probation Service have developed a strategy which ensures “a more targeted response to women offenders which it is hoped will reduce overcrowding in female prisons”.

These measures include strengthening early intervention measures in the community; exploring the potentials of women-centric alternatives to custody; and developing a suitable step-down facility for women offenders in centres such as the Dochas Centre in Mountjoy.

File Photo: Prison Officer's Association seeks independent watchdog Source: Photocall Ireland

Fitzgerald noted that a 40-month capital programme is being implemented to eliminate slopping out and to improve prison conditions. Slopping out in Mountjoy Prison will end next year, once refurbishment work is complete.

Construction on a new prison to replace the existing facility in Cork is due to be completed in the third quarter of 2015. Designs are currently being drawn up to redevelop Limerick Prison.

Timeline to end ‘slopping out’ in prisons needs to be set 

Closure of St Patrick’s Institution is ‘unfinished’ as 8 boys remain locked up

About the author:

Órla Ryan

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