Inmates at overcrowded Limerick Prison waiting on the wings

Mike Dwane

Reporter:

Mike Dwane

TWO wings of Limerick Prison - condemned in a report as the dirtiest and most overcrowded parts of the jail - are to be redeveloped as part of plans announced this week.

TWO wings of Limerick Prison - condemned in a report as the dirtiest and most overcrowded parts of the jail - are to be redeveloped as part of plans announced this week.

And the Irish Prison Service expects that by 2015 each cell on Mulgrave Street will have its own toilet, ending the practice of slopping out by inmates on the A and B wings, which date back to the 1820s.

These are the sections of the prison singled out for most criticism in a November 2011 report by Inspector of Prisons Judge Michael Reilly.

“Continued incarceration of prisoners in these divisions is inhuman and degrading,” Judge Reilly found.

While satisfied that prison management and most staff did their best “to provide humane conditions and ‘go the extra mile”, the inspector concluded that Limerick Prison could not “be said to comply with international best practice”.

In a three-year plan announced this week, the Irish Prison Service said it would redevelop the A and B wings in Limerick Prison and ensure that each inmate had in-cell sanitation as it aimed to “radically improve prison conditions in the older parts of the prison estate”. It hopes to award a contract for the Limerick works next year and have the new wings fitted out in 2015.

The “Three-Year Strategic Plan 2012-2105” provides no detail on whether cells on the new wings are to be enlarged.

The 28 cells in A division and 27 in B division are the smallest in the prison and are, according to Judge Reilly, fit only for single occupancy. Despite this, there were 104 prisoners in these 55 cells when the prison was inspected on November 11 last.

The C and D wings at Mulgrave Street are more modern, having opened in 2003 and 1998 respectively, and each of the 130 cells there has a toilet.

Despite their relative comfort, Judge Reilly found that the newer cells were also fit for one prisoner only and were overcrowded during the November inspection, with 194 men sharing 130 cells.

Overcrowding for female prisoners has been alleviated with the refurbishment of 14 cells in late 2010. The prison now has a total of 24 cells for women, each with its own toilet. Judge Reilly said each cell should hold only one woman but there were 32 incarcerated in Limerick during the November inspection.