To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality if she will close the women’s prison in Limerick due to the substandard accommodation and long hours of lock-up which are totally unacceptable and constitute a breach of human rights. – Clare Daly
REPLY.I am informed by the Irish Prison Service that as of Friday 19 September 2014, there was a total of 20 women in custody in Limerick Prison. The bed capacity as recommended by the Inspector of Prisons is 24. The Deputy will be aware that the primary role of the Irish Prison Service is the provision of safe and secure custody for prisoners. The Deputy will also be aware that the Prison Service must accept all persons committed by the courts into custody and does not have the option of refusing committals. A business case for the modernisation of prison facilities in Limerick Prison is currently being considered by the Department of Public Expenditure. Part of the proposed redevelopment includes the provision of high quality prison accommodation for female prisoners with capacity for approximately 50 individual cells and 8 custodial apartments.
When I published The Penal Policy Review Report on Wednesday 17 September 2014 I highlighted that the report called for the establishment of an open centre for women as well as gender appropriate strategies for the management of women offenders. I also highlighted that The Irish Prison Service has established a sub-group to examine where such a facility might be provided within the prison estate. Once the subgroup has reported, I intend to ask the Prison Service to bring forward further feasibility proposals on developing such an open centre for women prisoners.
The Irish Prison Service provides to those in custody a wide range of rehabilitative programmes, which have the dual purpose of providing prisoners with purposeful activity while serving their sentences and encouraging them to lead non-offending lives on release. The development of prisoner programmes forms a central part of the Irish Prison Service three year strategic plan 2012 – 2015. There is a clear commitment in the strategy to enhance sentence planning through Integrated Sentence Management and the delivery of prison based rehabilitative programmes such as education, work training and resettlement programmes.
On 6 March 2014 the IPS published a Women’s Strategy entitled “An Effective Response to Women Who Offend”. The Women’s Strategy sets out how the Irish Prison Service and the Probation Service work together, as well as with other statutory, community and voluntary sector partners, to provide women-focused interventions to help reduce offending, improve opportunities for reintegration and to improve outcomes more generally. This co-operative approach is a direct result of the Joint Irish Prison Service/Probation Service Female Strategy 2014-2016 which aims to deliver more effective offender management.