Written Answers. - Accelerated Prison Building Programme.

Liz O'Donnell

Ceist:

523 Ms O'Donnell asked the Minister for Justice the status of the accelerated prison building programme which was established in July 1996; the number of prison spaces which have been provided under this programme; where the prison spaces will be located; whether targets have been set for the provision of additional prison spaces; the proposals, if any, which have been received from the private sector for the construction of prisons; if so, the status of such proposals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17022/96]

The Government approved in January and July 1996 my proposals for the provision of additional prison spaces. Resulting from the Government's January decision, 30 places have been provided in St. Patrick's Institution and 38 places in the health care unit in Mountjoy up to June of this year.

In order to accelerate the programme agreed in July, Deputy Coveney, Minister of State at the Department of Finance, with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, was requested to oversee the expanded prison building programme and to accelerate the various projects.

Officials of my Department, the Department of Finance and the Office of Public Works, under the chairmanship of the Minister of State, Deputy Coveney, have been progressing the various works since July as follows: The main construction work on the 25 places in the Castlerea special unit is due to conclude in October and it should be ready for occupation in November. Construction work is ongoing on the 68 places in the Curragh prison and is scheduled to conclude by the end of October and it should be ready for occupation in November or early December. Detailed design work is under way on the 55 places in Limerick Prison, D wing. Tenders for construction will be invited in October. The design and layout of the 60 places in the new woman's prison has been agreed and observations arising from planning consultation are being examined. The design and layout of the approximately 125 places in Castlerea main prison has been agreed. Work is progressing on outline drawings, and the preparation of tender documents will be concluded by the end of October. A detailed brief has been prepared by my Department for the approximately 400 places in Wheatfield Prison and is now being examined in the Office of Public Works. Target dates have been set for each project and all projects are running fairly well on time.
Following a newspaper advertisement, a sizeable number of proposals have been received from the private sector for the construction of the remand prison at Wheatfield. Those proposals are being examined and evaluated and I expect to have a report and recommendations soon.
When all these projects are completed it should be noted that there will be approximately 800 additional places over today's 2,250 places. I am satisfied that the programme to provide the additional prison places is making solid progress.