Written answers

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform

Prison Accommodation

12:00 pm

Photo of Brian O'SheaBrian O'Shea (Waterford, Labour)
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Question 389: To ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his view on whether the chronic shortage of prison spaces is impacting on law enforcement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5167/10]

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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For the information of the Deputy and, indeed, the House I am setting out some relevant statistics in the table below on the numbers in custody to give a snapshot of the situation. It is clear that in the past 10 to 15 years there has been a dramatic rise in the numbers of criminals in custody.

DateNumber in custody
6 February 19972,334
6 February 20013,024
6 February, 20043,167
6 February, 20073,262
6 February, 20083,433
6 February, 20093,698
1 February, 20104,132

This clearly demonstrates the impact increased resources provided to the Gardaí and the courts which this Government has provided is having in the fight against crime.

The Irish Prison Service has been proactively engaged in an ongoing extensive programme of investment in prisons infrastructure which has involved both the modernisation of the existing estate and the provision of extra prison spaces. Since 1997 in excess of 1,670 new prison spaces have been provided. In addition, current projects will see a further 250 spaces provided by means of a new block in Wheatfield Prison which will accommodate approximately 200 prisoners and the re-opening of the Separation Unit in Mountjoy which will provide an additional 50 spaces. This extensive prison building programme speaks for itself.

In addition, work is expected to commence this year on a new accommodation block in the Portlaoise /Midlands prison complex which will provide 300 prison spaces. In the longer term, the Government remains firmly committed to replacing the prisons on the Mountjoy complex with modern prison accommodation at Thornton.

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