Overcrowding in prisons: Limerick women’s prison hits record levels of 164 per cent capacity
The number of beds in the whole Irish prison has reached capacity, with the total number of people being held in Ireland now exceeding the number of beds available.
The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) has expressed grave concern in response to figures released on the Irish Prison Service’s website this week showing that the aggregate capacity of all prisons in the Republic of Ireland has now reached 100 per cent.
Limerick Women’s Prison has reached a maximum capacity of 164 people and the number is still growing.
A total of 4,416 people were in prison in Ireland at the start of the week with just 4,411 beds available.
As of Friday, February 3, 2023, the prison count has reached 4,416 – five more than the number of beds available.
As the numbers continue to mount, news of nearly 50 people sleeping on mattresses in prison in recent weeks paints a picture of the magnitude of the problem.
IPRT is now calling on the Minister of Justice to make immediate efforts to adequately fund the proposed measures in the recently published review of policy options for prison and prison reform, with the ultimate aim of reducing the number of people being sent to prison and a move away from measures to support crimes that cause unnecessary further harm to people and their families.
Ms Molly Joyce, Acting Executive Director of IPRT, said: “The Government has indicated that it is committed to examining the ‘prison as a last resort’ policy by offering alternatives to prison, such as prison, where appropriate. B. Community-based sanctions.
“The political position is there, but we can see from the increase in the number of people in prison that the politics on the ground are far from reality.
“While there have been some welcome reductions in incarceration in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, more recent data suggests this has not been sustainable and we are getting back to business as usual.
“The number of people in prison accelerated in 2022 and the number will continue to grow into 2023.”
Ms Joyce says “this is a game changer” for Irish prisons with a prison population “growing at a worrying rate” and “without strong government action, the problems caused by this rapid increase will continue”.
“In the short term, these numbers have an impact on overcrowding.
“But we risk reaching a point where rehabilitation services cannot be provided effectively in prisons, undermining one of the primary purposes of incarceration.
“The number of detainees can now be reduced through the careful and structured use of temporary and early release measures. In the longer term, measures to reduce Ireland’s prison population need to be adequately resourced and implemented.
“We welcome departments’ pledges to move away from practices that rely heavily on incarceration, but action is needed now for people sitting in overcrowded prisons this week and for communities wanting to see meaningful change and safer societies .
“Despite the damaging social and economic impact on individuals, families and communities, over-reliance on imprisonment continues to exist for those convicted of less serious crimes.”
IPRT is also concerned that the continued delay in the release of the Prison Chaplains’ Annual Reports for 2021 is missing an opportunity to shed light on what is happening on the ground in Irish prisons. Previously released chaplaincy reports have highlighted various issues within the prison system, including the effects of overcrowding.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/prison-overcrowding-limerick-female-prison-reaches-highs-of-164-percent-capacity-42325935.html Overcrowding in prisons: Limerick women’s prison hits record levels of 164 per cent capacity