INMATES at overcrowded Limerick Prison could this year be transferred to Portlaoise, where 200 new cells are to be opened up by the Irish Prison Service.
A new wing at the Midlands Prison will “become operational in the latter half of 2012”, a spokesman said.
Inspector of Prisons Judge Michael Reilly has in a series of reports drawn attention to overcrowding at Limerick. Last November he found 298 men in 185 cells he deemed fit only for single occupancy.
The proposed “super-prison” for Munster at Kilworth, County Cork, had been mooted as a solution but that project has been shelved as the Government cuts capital spending.
The Prison Service could now look to Portlaoise with Judge Reilly having been informed by management that once the new wing opens at the Midlands, “the overcrowding of Limerick will be alleviated”.
A spokesman for the Prison Service could not confirm how many prisoners could transfer but said the new wing “will assist in alleviating the situation in a number of other prisons, including Limerick”.
All 200 new cells at the Midlands would “meet the standards for double occupancy”, he added.
Under plans announced last week, the Prison Service said it would redevelop the two oldest sections of Limerick Prison. The A and B wings date from the 1820s and have been condemned in Judge Reilly’s reports and the dirtiest and most overcrowded sections of the jail. But in a follow-up report in January, the inspector acknowledged “a vast improvement in cleanliness” in these areas.
While prison sources told the Limerick Leader men on these wings still have to “slop out” during lock-up periods, Judge Reilly’s follow-up report found authorities had brought in “toilet patrols” where inmates are escorted to a toilet on demand.