| 12.8°C Dublin

Level of overcrowding in State's two women's prisons 'unacceptable'

Close

Dochas Centre in Mountjoy

Dochas Centre in Mountjoy

Dochas Centre in Mountjoy

Overcrowding in the State's two female prisons has been criticised by visiting committees, with conditions in Limerick during warm weather described as "unacceptable".

The just-published reports of the 12 prison visiting committees for 2018 show ongoing issues with capacity at the Dochas Centre in Dublin and the female section of Limerick Prison.

The Limerick visiting committee noted the prison was operating with an average of 35 women in a 24-bed facility.

Similarly the male prison in Limerick housed an average of 230 prisoners in 2018, when it had a bed capacity of 185.

"Having up to 44 female prisoners during the long hot summer of 2018 with no proper air conditioning was unacceptable," the committee said.

It expressed hope that plans for a new female prison in Limerick would improve the situation.

The visiting committee at the Dochas Centre in the Mountjoy complex, which houses female prisoners, said overcrowding was a constant problem for many years which was "frustratingly unresolved".

"It is ongoing and leads to disruption, behavioural problems and serious unrest," the committee said.

The Dochas committee also expressed concern at the growing problem of drugs, with many prisoners afraid to leave their rooms because of the aggressive behaviour of others under the influence of drugs.

The visiting committee to Cloverhill Prison in Dublin, which houses remand prisoners, said it was deeply concerned about the ongoing high number of prisoners sharing triple cells.

It noted that 315 out of 415 prisoners were in cells with three or more inmates, while 357 prisoners were required to use a toilet in the presence of others. It said this represented "an affront to the dignity of the human person".

Shabby

The committee described the prison's surgery as unfit for purpose due to its "shabby appearance" and lack of privacy in treatment rooms.

It also criticised the lack of maintenance of the prison's gym and gym equipment.

The Mountjoy committee expressed concern about the continuous problem of substance abuse in the prison which had led to an increase in intimidation, violence and injury to physical and mental health.

It also noted that a third of prisoners in Mountjoy were on restricted regime for their own safety - with most locked in their cells for up to 21 hours per day - compared to 12pc across the entire prison population.

"This gives rise to great logistical and staffing issues and impacts on prisoner rehabilitation," said the committee's chairperson, Mary Fennessy.

The main subject of complaints by prisoners to the committee related to prison visits by relatives and issues surrounding the searching and barring of visitors. Over 57,000 visits to prisoners were recorded at Mountjoy in 2018.

The committee also expressed concern that some prisoners did not appear to be adequately assessed as they entered the final pre-release stage of a long sentence in Mountjoy.

Several committees also expressed concern that the availability of workshops and other educational and training facilities were curtailed.