Written answers

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform

Prison Building Programme

5:00 pm

Photo of Seán SherlockSeán Sherlock (Cork East, Labour)
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Question 14: To ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made over recent months on the Thornton Hall project; if consideration has been given to rethinking the project in favour of a more feasible smaller institution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19608/10]

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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As the Deputy is aware the Government has re-affirmed its commitment to developing a new prison campus at Thornton Hall, County Dublin and also approved the launch of a new tendering process for the construction of a more affordable and better value prison campus at Thornton. The aim is to provide good quality, regime focussed prison accommodation with appropriate support and rehabilitative facilities for prisoners to prepare them for re-integration back into society.

As previously stated, the new prison facility will provide accommodation for 1,400 cells with operational flexibility to accommodate up to 2,200 in a range of security settings and facilities. The Irish Prison Service is satisfied that the scope and scale of the project is appropriate given the current level of committals.

The development of the new prison at Thornton Hall, County Dublin is proceeding on a phased basis. Phase one comprises essential enabling works required for the prison development. These works include the construction of the dedicated access road, perimeter security wall and various off-site services. Phase two of the project comprises the various prisoner accommodation blocks, workshops, education facilities and administration buildings.

Tenders for the design and construction of the access road to serve the prison development were issued in March this year. The competition is still in progress and it is anticipated that contract award will take place in June with construction work commencing on site in July.

It is intended that tender documents for various off-site works will be issued later this month with construction work expected to commence in September this year.

The tender documentation for the design and construction of the perimeter wall of the prison is currently at an advanced stage of preparation. It is intended to invite tenders for this phase of the project by the end of September with the construction work commencing immediately following the completion of the access road in January 2011. The construction of the perimeter wall is estimated to take about 12 months to complete.

In relation to the main prison development, the National Development Finance Agency acting on behalf of the Irish Prison Service, has initiated an EU wide tender competition for the appointment of multi-disciplinary technical advisors for the project. The technical advisors will develop the output specification and other tender documents which will be the subject of a tender competition later this year. It is anticipated that the prison will be operational within 3 years from the commencement of the construction of the main prison campus.

The detailed design of the new prison has not yet been finalised. When designing a new prison, the Irish Prison Service must take into consideration a whole range of factors. These include the need to provide sufficient accommodation to meet current and future committals from the courts, the need to provide safe, secure custody for offenders and, the provision of appropriate rehabilitation services in order to prepare offenders for re-integration back in to society on completion of their sentence.

The new prison at Thornton Hall will be a campus style development with a range of prisoner accommodation units and security settings within the perimeter wall. I am confident that this is the best option to meet the needs of the Irish Prison Service and to deliver the type of prisoner rehabilitation programmes that are not currently possible at Mountjoy due to the lack of basic infrastructure and the historical nature of the buildings which date back to 1850.

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