Some €341 million will be spent running prisons in Portlaoise and elsewhere next year with a revised capital budget paving the way for a new jail and upgrade to others, according to the Minister responsible and Laois TD Charlie Flanagan.
In response to Budget 2017, the Minister for Justice confirmed spending budgets for the Irish Prison Service run jails in Portlaoise and the rest of the country.
"The revised Prisons Capital budget over the period 2018 to 2021 will be in the region of €120 million and will enable the construction commencing in 2018 of a new modern wing in Limerick Prison, with in cell sanitation and a dedicated standalone new female prison for the Munster region.
"The capital funding will also allow for the improvement of facilities in Portlaoise Prison, Shelton Abbey and Loughan House Open Centre, the Dóchas Centre and at Cloverhill Prison and Wheatfield Place of Detention.
"It will also facilitate the development of a masterplan for the Mountjoy Campus aimed at centralising and enhancing shared services on the site," said the Minister.
Major change is in store for the high security Portlaoise Prison with the plan to bring slopping out to an end on E-wing which houses republican and other criminals.
Minister Flanagan also announced additional funding to provide a step down facility for women prisoners in the Dublin area.
“The step down facility is a joint venture between the Irish Prison Service and the Probation Service aimed at supporting re-integration after sentence, preventing further crime and furthering the common good by ensuring that offenders can turn their lives around.
"The new facility will accommodate women for a period of time following custody, or on probation supervision in the community, who are assessed as suitable to reside in the community and have accommodation and other needs requiring support," he said.
Minister Flanagan said it is envisaged that the service provider will coordinate individualised care plans for this vulnerable group with complex needs, linking women to a variety of community based services and equipping them with skills to move towards full independent living post sentence.
"To ensure our communities are safe, we must ensure that our prison service can be effective in rehabilitating prisoners and step-down facilities are an important part of that overall goal,” he said.
Gross expenditure budgets for the eight votes in the Minister for Justice's area total €2.634 billion and cover the following votes: An Garda Siochána (€1.650 billion), Prisons (€341 million), Courts Service €132 million) Department of Justice and Equality (€460 million), Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (€6.7 million), Property Registration Authority €29.3 million), Valuation Office (€11.6 million) and Policing Authority (€3.3 million).