Tuesday, 18 June 2013
Development of Cork Prison: Motion
I welcome the opportunity to speak on this and I thank the Whips for affording us the opportunity to debate it. We welcome the principle of building a new prison in Cork given that, as highlighted by many organisations, the conditions were inhumane and inadequate for the prison population. Clearly those conditions go against what we are trying to do with regard to prisoner education so that they can come back into the community rehabilitated. Overcrowding and slopping out is completely unacceptable in this day and age, and it has been condemned on numerous occasions. That is not to take away from the efforts staff have made in trying to deal with this, but the numbers of prisoners going through Cork Prison makes a mockery of what we are trying to achieve in terms of having decent dignified accommodation for prisoners, regardless of the reasons for their incarceration, so that when they come out they can make a contribution to broader society. I welcome the commitment to this development.
Of course, it is still proposed to have double occupancy cells, which should be revisited. While I understand there are extreme pressures on finances, every effort should be made to try to accommodate prisoners in single occupancy cells where practicable. The development of this prison on Rathmore Road in Cork should include at least some single occupancy cells.
Having been there and having met many families, I recognise it is critical to have proper visiting facilities for families visiting loved ones in prison. An element of dignity and respect needs to be afforded to people when they go into prisons. While I understand the need for security and I support every measure to ensure drugs and contraband are not smuggled in by family members and people visiting prisoners, with technological advances in surveillance, etc. it should be possible to allow visiting in a dignified and human manner.