A NEW accommodation block at the Midlands Prison is expected to be operational by the end of this year according to Minister for Justice and Equality Alan Shatter.
When open the new block at the Portlaoise facility will provide a potential 300 extra prison spaces as well as additional work, training and education facilities.
The Irish Prison Service’s annual report published last week highlighted that the average cost of an available, staffed prison space during 2011 was €65,359 (€70,513 in 2010), a decrease of €5,154 or 7.3%.
An increase in bed capacity within the state prison system from 4,203 to 4,486 contributed to the fall in cost.
Along with the new block at the Midlands Prison, the Minister outlined that construction of a new 250 space prison in Cork will commence in 2013 and he has also requested the Prison Service to proceed with the preparation of plans for a major redevelopment of Limerick prison.
During 2011 the daily average number of prisoners at Portlaoise Prison (bed capacity 359) was 270 in custody, 5 on temporary release and 9 on remand/trial and at the Midlands Prison (bed capacity 603) the average was 586 in custody, 80 on temporary release and 18 on remand/trial.
The number of prisoners in custody in the state as at Tuesday, July 17 last was 4,521.
The average number of prisoners in custody has risen in the last five years from 3,321 during 2007 to 4,389 during 2011, an increase of over 32%.
The total number of commitals has also risen sharply during the same period, from 11,934 in 2007 to 17,318 in 2011, an increase of over 45%.
Minister Shatter commented, “The greatest challenge facing the Irish Prison Service continues to be the increasing number of prisoners being committed to custody. However, the increase for 2011 was less than in previous years with a 0.8% increase over the 2010 figures compared with increases of 11.4, 13.8 and 13.6 percent in the previous three years, perhaps signalling a levelling off in numbers.”
Overall, 13,952 persons were sent to prison in 2011 compared to 13,758 in 2010, which represents an increase of 1.4%.
Of those 86.4% were male and 13.6% were female.
Meanwhile, A new Governer, Martin Mullen, has been appointed to oversee both prisons, which the Prison Service say will management costs.
“Both prisons will still operate as normal. This comes from the Croke Park Agreement, and is the start of campus structures. The service is undergoing a task review, and transformations are ongoing in all prisons,” a spokesperson said.
A grade 2 Governer and management teams will be in charge of each prison.
There will be shared services between the two prisons on the Campus.
In a similar move, Mountjoy, the Dochas Centre, St Patrick’s Institution and the Training Unit have merged to form the Mountjoy Prison Campus, and Wheatfield and Cloverhill Prisons have also merged to form the West Dublin Prison Campus.