Thursday, 29 January 2004

Questions (162)

Bernard J. Durkan


162 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the optimum number of prison places required over the foreseeable future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2650/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

It is difficult to predict precisely the number of spaces which we will need in the future. A number of factors will impact on the demand side, including the level of crime and the number and duration of sentences imposed by our courts. There are also underlying socio-economic factors and population trends which may ultimately have an influence on crime and imprisonment.

The issue of future prison capacity is currently being addressed. The Government is committed in its agreed programme to continue with the modernisation of prisons and to the provision of sufficient places. A review of prison space requirements and a new capital building programme to meet the requirements for the next ten to 15 years is underway. I hope to bring these proposals to Government in the near future.

Some requirements are already clear. Additional accommodation will be required for female prisoners. There is also an urgent acknowledged need to refurbish older facilities to provide both better accommodation and to reduce the usage of multiple occupancy cells.