Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Questions (559)

Ciaran Lynch

Question:

559. Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of persons in prison and the number in each institution; the total number of prisoners not held in single cells or rooms; and the number of these in each institution; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [21369/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

The Deputy will be aware that the average number of prisoners in custody in Ireland has risen in recent years, from 3,321 during 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%. 2013 saw the first significant decrease in prison numbers since 2007. There were 15,735 committals to prison in 2013 which was a decrease of 7.6% on the 2012 figure. However given the current number of prisoners in custody - 4,013 on 12 May 2014 - the Irish Prison Service is not in a position to provide single cell accommodation to all prisoners. Single cell occupancy across the system would result in a bed capacity of approximately 3,200 and would not be possible to achieve without releasing sizeable numbers of prisoners considered to represent a threat to public safety. However, I can advise the Deputy that on 1st April 2014 almost 50% of all prisoners in custody on that day (4,103) were accommodated in single cell accommodation. In addition, 1,528 or 37% were accommodated in double occupancy cells with the remainder, (531) accommodated in cells with 3 or more persons. Of this 56 were accommodated in dormitory style accommodation in Shelton Abbey. The majority of those housed in double cells are housed in our newer prisons where the cells are larger and conform to the standards for double occupancy as set out by the Inspector of Prisons.

As the Deputy is aware the Irish Prison Service is in the process of redeveloping all wings in Mountjoy Prison with refurbishment work on the A, B and C Wings now complete. Following the refurbishment of each wing, all cells are being returned to single occupancy status. In this regard, the Deputy will note from the figures set out in the table below that on 1 April 2014, 543 prisoners, or 92% of those in custody in Mountjoy prison, were in single cells. It should be borne in mind that in certain cases prisoners are housed together for reasons other than lack of capacity. Family members and friends often elect or are assigned a shared cell. Shared cell accommodation can be very beneficial from a management point of view particularly for those who are vulnerable and at risk of self-harm. There will always be a need for certain prisoners to be accommodated together.

As outlined in the Irish Prison Service Three Year Strategic Plan, it is intended to align the capacity of our prisons with the guidelines laid down by the Inspector of Prisons by 2014, in so far as this is compatible with public safety and the integrity of the criminal justice system. Details of cell occupancy for all prisons, as requested by the Deputy, is set out in the following table and is reflective of the information available on 1 April 2014.

Prison

Number in Custody 01 Apr 2014

No of prisoners in single cell

No of prisoners in double cell

No of prisoners in triple cell

No of prisoners in 4+ cells

Arbour Hill

144

92

40

12

0

Cloverhill

443

52

58

309

24

Cork

234

58

176

0

0

Castlerea

357

127

182

48

0

Limerick

264

89

172

3

0

Loughan

129

81

48

0

0

Midlands

850

343

472

3

32

Mountjoy (M)

587

543

26

18

0

Mountjoy (F)

134

59

64

6

5

Portlaoise

251

180

62

9

0

St Patrick's

6

6

0

0

0

Shelton Abbey

110

36

12

6

56

Training Unit

93

93

0

0

0

Wheatfield

501

285

216

0

0

Total

4103

2044

1528

414

117