17 January 2012

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Mr Alan Shatter TD, today published a report by the Inspector of Prisons, Judge Michael Reilly, of an inspection of Limerick Prison which was presented to the Minister on 25 November, 2011. 

The Minister also published the Inspector’s report of the first follow up inspection of the prison which was presented to him on 16 January, 2012.

The initial report raises a number of serious issues relating to Limerick Prison including overcrowding and poor conditions which require to be addressed.   Having inspected the prison previously, the Inspector states that he is still particularly concerned about Limerick Prison.  These include a number of deficiencies which had previously been identified in relation to cleanliness, hygiene and slopping out, staffing, physical conditions and repairs that are still required.  The Inspector has stated that these issues need to be addressed, new procedures must be put in place, and regime changes must occur. 

The Inspector is also of the view that Limerick cannot at present be said to comply with best practice and certain areas of the prison are not fit for purpose.  However, he adds that while the report highlights many negatives in Limerick Prison, this should not be taken as total condemnation of the prison.  The Inspector states that Limerick Prison can continue to play an important role in the Irish prison system if the concerns outlined in his report are addressed.

Minister Shatter said " I am particularly disappointed and indeed shocked that deficiencies previously identified by the Inspector were not addressed by prison management.  Notwithstanding limited resources and difficult times generally, it is evident that some of those deficiencies can and should have been addressed.  This is unacceptable and I asked the newly appointed Director General of the Irish Prison Service to take immediate steps to address the issues raised by the Inspector"

The Director General has put an Action Plan in place for Limerick Prison.  The Action Plan sets specific objectives and timeframes for implementing the Inspector’s recommendations.  These include, for example, putting programmes in place for improving sanitation facilities, cleaning and refurbishment, replacement of broken windows, installation of vandal proof phones, new arrangements to ensure the opening of the library, training for staff, and improving conditions generally for prisoners and staff throughout the prison.  The Director General has assured the Minister that the vast majority of the issues raised by the Inspector can be remedied in the short to medium term. 

Minister Shatter commented " While it may be difficult, I expect every effort will be made to ensure the Action Plan is implemented within the timeframe given.  It is clear from the Inspector’s follow up report that some progress has been made since the initial report.  Like the Inspector, I am encouraged by the progressive attitude now apparent in the prison and the improvements detailed on foot of his follow up inspection.  More needs to be done and I intend to visit the prison shortly to see for myself the progress made".

The Minister is happy to note that a number of issues have already been addressed since the publication of the report.  These include:-

- toilet patrols in place
- painting programme established
- cleaning programme established
- refurbishment and repairs to be undertaken and implemented within certain timeframes
- new arrangements to ensure the opening of the library
- identification badges being worn by all staff since 1 December, 2011

The reports are available on the Department's website http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/PB12000006