Cork Prison officers fear more overcrowding when circuit court returns

Cork Prison officers fear more overcrowding when circuit court returns
The control room in Cork Prison Picture: Eddie O'Hare

STAFF in Cork Prison are concerned about how the Circuit Court sessions in the coming weeks will impact on an already overcrowded jail.

In recent months, prisoner numbers at the Rathmore Road prison have been high, with temporary release and prisoner transfers used to help free up spaces for new inmates committed to the prison.

Just before Christmas, there were 74 inmates on temporary release on one particular day.

Up to 65 inmates were on temporary release on days last week, while there were 290 in the prison. The building has a bed capacity for 296 men.

One source in the prison said: "There are so many committals from the courts. We have regular escorts transferring prisoners to other jails to free up space. 

"When the Circuit Court starts in a few weeks, Cork will not just have to take people from the local court but also from Waterford and Tralee."

Cells and landing area in the new Cork Prison Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Cells and landing area in the new Cork Prison Picture: Eddie O'Hare

He added: "It is disappointing from our point of view that overcrowding is a problem because it is a new prison."

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 spokesman for the Irish Prison Service said: "Many factors are taken into account when considering prisoners for release, in each case the potential risk or danger to the public and/or the victim is of paramount importance."

"Numbers may vary throughout the year as each application for Temporary Release is considered on its individual merits and the safety of the public is paramount when decisions are made. 

"Temporary release is considered an important vehicle for re-integrating an offender into the community in a planned way. 

"The generally accepted view is that the risk to the community is reduced by planned re-integration of offenders compared with their return to the community only on completion of their full sentence. 

"Prisoners are considered for temporary release in various circumstances, for example, release under the direct supervision of the Probation Service; to employment or training programmes; on compassionate release because of ill health or family-related circumstances; or for reintegration purposes because they are nearing the end of their sentence. 

"When temporary release is granted it is at all times subject to stringent conditions, for example, a requirement that prisoners report daily to his/her local Garda Station, that they participate in addiction counselling/drug treatment/community return, that they abstain from alcohol or stay away from a particular area."

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