A DRUG-FREE unit will be provided at Limerick Prison as soon as inmates are transferred to a new block in Portlaoise, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has said.
He was reacting to the annual report of the prison visiting committee, which expressed “concern at the continued availability of drugs within the prison”.
This, the committee found, was despite “the best efforts” of Governor Eamonn Mullane and staff “in stemming the drug flow into the prison”. The report notes that two full-time staff attached to the Merchant’s Quay Project - providing counselling and rehabilitation services within the prison walls - have seen their caseload “increase significantly in recent times”.
Concern has also been expressed over continued overcrowding, with “total numbers persistently in excess of bed capacity” over several visits made by the committee during 2011. Temporary measures have been introduced to reduce “slopping out” and address other issues identified by the Inspector of Prisons in respect of the A and B wings.
But Minister Shatter has pledged that the redevelopment of these, the oldest sections of the prison, would see each prisoner get a toilet in their cell.
Plans, he said, were advancing to replace A and B wing with “a new modern 100-cell accommodation block with in-cell sanitation, a dedicated committal unit and a high support unit, ancillary support services, additional recreational areas and a new kitchen facility with work training facilities”.
Three hundred new places were to be provided at the Midlands Prison in Portlaoise and this would relieve overcrowding in Limerick, the Minister said. This in turn would free up space to provide a drug-free unit on Mulgrave Street.
“It is intended that a drug-free unit will be established in Limerick Prison by the end of 2012. This is contingent on the opening of the new block in the Midlands which will facilitate some of the population from Limerick thereby freeing up a dedicated space for such a unit. The Governor is committed to acting on this once space is available,” Minister Shatter said.
Feuding in Limerick means a high proportion of inmates are on protection and the visiting committee expresses concern that these numbers are at an “all-time high”.
The committee noted a “marked decrease of foreign nationals in custody”, adding there were “no issues” regarding their treatment during 2011.