Written answers

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform

Irish Prison Service

2:30 pm

Photo of Tommy BroughanTommy Broughan (Dublin North East, Independent)
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Question 601: To ask the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the total number of prisoners each year from 1997 to the end of 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1520/11]

Photo of Dermot AhernDermot Ahern (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Louth, Fianna Fail)
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The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the table below. Figures are taken from the Annual Reports for the Irish Prison Service. Figures for 2010 are being finalised and will be published in the Annual Report 2010.

YearDaily average number ofpersons in custody
20093881
20083544
20073321
20063191
20053151
20043199
20033176
20023165
20013112
20002919
19992763
19982,735
19972,124

It is the case that there has been a consistent increase 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 417. With the extra resources provided by this Government, the Garda Síochána have been increasingly successful in prosecuting criminals and extra court sittings have resulted in higher committal rates.

As the Deputy will be aware, Ireland traditionally has had a low rate of imprisonment. Council of Europe annual penal statistics measure imprisonment rates by prison population per 100,000 inhabitants. The European average is about 109 prisoners per 100,000. In 2008, the latest year for which full statistics are available, Ireland had a rate of 84.8 well below that average. The UK for example had a figure of 152.8. Based on that data, we were below most western European countries other than Scandinavian countries. These latest Council of Europe penal statistics show that Belgium (125%), France (131%), Italy (130%) and Spain (141%) all have more severe levels of overcrowding than Ireland. The USA imprisonment rate is around 700 per 100,000 inhabitants. However, it is also true to say that as our prison numbers increase so too will our position on the table change and this is something that I am very conscious of.

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 1,930 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, Castlerea and most recently Wheatfield prisons and at the open centres in Shelton Abbey and Loughan House.

Construction has commenced on a new accommodation block in the Portlaoise/Midlands prisons complex which will provide 300 prison spaces in 2012. Also in the short term, work is due to commence on converting an administrative building on the Dóchas site into a new accommodation block which will provide 70 spaces in the near future.

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 prisoners with operational flexibility to accommodate up to 2,200 in a range of security settings.

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