THE number of inmates in Cork prison has plummeted by almost 60 since the start of the public health restrictions to halt the spread of Covid-19.
On March 12, there were 319 inmates in the prison, while an additional 72 were out on temporary release.
On Wednesday, 83 inmates were out on temporary release as the Irish Prison Service continues to create space across the prison system to provide for isolation of inmates in the event of an outbreak of Covid-19. There were 261 in Cork prison. It has a bed capacity for 296 inmates.
A spokesperson for the Irish Prison Service said: "There have been 73 committals to the prison since March 12 and 113 inmates have reached the end of their sentences since then."
Some of those who have reached the end of their sentences had already been released on temporary release.
Under legislation, temporary release can be for just a few hours or for a more extended period. Concerns about overcrowding in Cork were heard at the Prison Officers Association conference in Sligo last May.
Throughout the past year, figures in the prison have spiked and the building is regularly at capacity, or overcrowded.
A statement from the Irish Penal Reform Trust said: "IPRT welcomes pre-emptive measures taken by the Department of Justice & Equality and the Irish Prison Service to date in response to the pandemic - and in particular, measures taken towards safely reducing the prison population. Nevertheless, IPRT is concerned at the very serious implications that an outbreak of COVID-19 in Irish prisons could have.
"More significant action will need to be taken in the coming days, weeks and even months, in order to protect the lives, health and wellbeing of people in prison, prison staff, their families in the community and all society."
The IPRT wants the number of prison committals, both on remand and for short-sentences, to be reduced during the present climate.