Progress in the
Penal System (PIPS)

4: Size of prisons

Standard 4:

Each prison is limited to a prison population not exceeding 300, but ideally 200–250.


Smaller prisons reflect community life more closely, and reduce the likelihood of violence, as well as facilitating the development of positive staff– prisoner relationships.

Current context:

In total, 7 of 12 prisons meet this standard. However, further analysis shows that of the seven that meet this standard, one is a female prison and two are open prisons. There are five prisons operating above this number. Only five prisons meet the ideal standard of a prison population of below 250.

Indicators for Standard:

Indicators for Standard 4

Indicator S4.1: The number of prisons in the Irish prison estate below the maximum prison size of 300 prisoners:

Prison Size Standard met
Cloverhill 431 X
Cork 296
Limerick (Male and Female) 238
Midlands 870 X
Mountjoy (Female) 105
Mountjoy (Male) 755 X
Portlaoise 291
Wheatfield 550 X
Arbour Hill 138
Castlerea 340 X
Loughan House 140
Shelton Abbey 115

Actions required:

Action 4.1: The Department of Justice and Equality should ensure that any future prison renewal programme is guided by a commitment to prison sizes of less than 300, ideally 250.


IPRT Irish Penal Reform Trust


Copyright 2019 Irish Penal Reform Trust. CHY number: 11091

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