MINISTER for Justice Alan Shatter has committed to the replacement of the oldest and most overcrowded sections of Limerick Prison with a modern 100-cell block where every prisoner will have in-cell sanitation.
The Irish Prison Service earlier this year announced plans to eliminate slopping out throughout the prison estate.
The A and B wings of Limerick Prison, which are almost 200 years old, have been criticised in a series of reports by prisons inspector Judge Michael Reilly for their degrading environment. Judge Reilly’s reports say the conditions inmates endure are despite the best efforts of management and staff and his most recent follow-up report praises a “toilet patrol” regime where prisoners on the older wings are escorted to the toilet on demand.
On a visit to Mulgrave Street on Monday, Minister Shatter said “very significant progress has been made in Limerick Prison in dealing with the deficiencies identified”.
“Having visited the prison today, I have witnessed first-hand the results of the concerted efforts which have been made by management and staff to ensure that the prison complies with best practice and offers as humane a regime and environment possible to both prisoners and staff. The level of cleanliness is exceptionally high and the standards of hygiene which are being maintained in a difficult physical environment are to be commended,” said Minister Shatter.
The minister has approved the Prison Service’s plans to redevelop the A and B wings and also address the absence of dedicated committal unit as identified by Judge Reilly.
“I have given permission...to proceed with the drafting of detailed plans for the replacement of these two wings with a new modern 100-cell accommodation block with in-cell sanitation which will include provision for a dedicated committal unit and high support unit and which will also provide for new ancillary support services including additional recreational areas and a new kitchen facility with work training facilities,” he said.
During Judge Reilly’s inspection last November, he found there were 104 men sharing 55 cells on the A and B wings when the cells were only fit for single occupancy. The Prison Service said it was too early to say whether all 100 new cells in Limerick would be bigger but most cells added to the system in recent years have met the standards for double occupancy.