Written answers

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform

Prison Accommodation

10:30 am

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois-Offaly, Fine Gael)
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Question 44: To ask the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of prisoner places that currently exist; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24974/10]

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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I wish to advise the Deputy that the number of prison places available on 9 June 2010 was 4,066.

It is the case that there has been a consistent growth in the total prisoner population over recent years. This situation is particularly apparent over the past 12 months during which time the total number in custody has increased by 366. This represents an approximate 9.4 % increase in the number in custody.

The Irish Prison Service has been engaged in an 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 1,720 new prison spaces have come on stream in the prison system. These include the new prisons in Castlerea, the Midlands, Cloverhill, the Dóchas Centre and new accommodation in Limerick, Portlaoise and Castlerea prisons and at the open centres in Shelton Abbey and Loughan House.

Current projects will see a further 200 prison spaces provided in the short term by means of a new block in Wheatfield. In addition, we hope to proceed in late 2010 with a new accommodation block in the Portlaoise/Midlands prisons complex which will provide 300 prison spaces in the medium term.

In the short term, work is due to commence on converting an administrative building on the Dóchas site into a new accommodation block. This will provide 30 rooms with sufficient area to double up if required and is due to be completed later this year.

The Deputy will also be aware of the Government's commitment to developing a new prison campus at Thornton Hall, County Dublin. 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.

The development is now proceeding on a phased basis with phase one comprising essential enabling works required for the development including the construction of the dedicated access road, perimeter wall and off-site services. Tenders for the construction of the access road were published in March of this year and tenders for the construction of the perimeter wall will be published in September.

Phase 2 will include the development of the main prison campus. The detailed appraisal is underway in accordance with Department of Finance Capital Expenditure Guidelines and is at an advanced stage of preparation.

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