Progress in the
Penal System (PIPS)

3: Safe custody limits

Standard 3:

Every closed prison is operating at least 10% below its recommended maximum capacity.

Rationale:

All prisons should operate below the Inspector of Prisons’ [234] recommended maximum capacity in order to protect the safety of everyone in the prison system. It is important that published capacity figures reflect the lived reality in Irish prisons, and that figures do not distort that reality –for example, the impact on capacity as result of closures for refurbishments of prison wings. The impact of overcrowding is reduced quality of living conditions, as well as adverse effects on prisoners’ privacy. [235]

Current context:

The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality (2018) recommended the capping of prisoner numbers in each institution, along with the adoption of a clear strategy by the Government to reduce the prison population by half over a fixed time scale. [236] Outlined below are prison capacity figures for April 2018 and how they compare to figures for 2017.

Indicators for Standard:

Indicators for Standard 3

Indicator S3.1: Each closed prison operating at least 10% below capacity:

Prison Numbers in Custody 10th of April 2018 [237] Prison Capacity % Bed Capacity
Arbour Hill 137 138 99%
Castlerea 287 340 84%
Cloverhill 423 431 98%
Cork 280 296 95%
Limerick (m) 267 210 108%
Limerick (f) 40 28 143%
Midlands 803 870 92%
Mountjoy (M) 691 755 92%
Mountjoy (F) 128 105 122%
Portlaoise 220 291 76%
Wheatfield 442 550 80%
Total 3,894 3,899

Only three closed prisons were operating at least 10% below capacity in April 2018.

Prison Usable Cells [238] 2018 Usable Cells 2017 [239] Difference
Arbour Hill 117 117 0
Castlerea 237 243 -6
Cloverhill 176 182 -6
Cork 170 169 +1
Limerick 163 163 0
Midlands 590 605 -15
Mountjoy (M) 691 585 +106
Mountjoy (F) 75 94 -19
Portlaoise 211 208 +3
Wheatfield 394 463 -69
Total 2,993 2,997 -4

A stark difference this year is the reduction in the number of usable cells in Wheatfield Prison and the Dóchas Centre women’s prison on the snapshot date. (This may be attributed to the closure of a wing/houses.)

Actions required:

Action 3.1 All stakeholders in the criminal justice field must work to reduce the prison population by 1000. Legislators should consider whether governors should be given the power to refuse new prisoner committals when capacity levels exceed safe levels.
Action 3.2 The Inspector of Prisons must review and publish operational capacity levels for each prison in 2018.

References:

IPRT Irish Penal Reform Trust

Privacy

Copyright 2019 Irish Penal Reform Trust. CHY number: 11091

viewed here