Belfast Telegraph

Prison conditions slammed in report

Inmates are still being housed in "archaic and Dickensian" conditions in some parts of Cork Prison, a report has revealed.

A visiting committee also found a constant and unacceptable overcrowding problem in the prison, which it described as unfit for purpose. It also raised concerns regarding the housing of mentally-ill prisoners and said services for inmates with medical, psychological and psychiatric problems were totally inadequate.

The report stated: "The visiting committee wish to express concern about the archaic and Dickensian conditions in some parts of Cork Prison. The prison is unfit for purpose and has been deemed so by a number of reports.

"We welcome the Government's commitment to a new prison in Cork and hope it will resolve the issues of overcrowding, the practice of slopping out, and meet international standards and human rights criteria."

A total of 223 inmates are in Cork Prison, which has a capacity for 210.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter said action is being taken to address the concerns at the facility, with works on the new prison to start in October and finish in three years.

"Action also continues to be taken to reduce overcrowding with the capacities of Mountjoy and Limerick prisons being significantly reduced and aligned to the recommendations made by the Inspector of Prisons," he added.

The reports of visiting committees to five prisons - Arbour Hill, Cork, Limerick, Midlands and Shelton Abbey - have been published by Mr Shatter.

They found the prison population had dropped in Limerick by more than 100 over the last year, to 245 by February 2013, easing overcrowding. However, there were still unacceptably high numbers of prisoners "on protection" there.

Convicted criminals in the Midlands prison complained of being transferred there from Dublin, putting extra pressure on their family on visiting days, while clothing went missing during the move. Elsewhere, the committee highlighted staff shortages in Arbour Hill and a lack of support services for inmates - many convicted sex offenders - on release.

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