CORK Prison is already overcrowded - less than three years after opening. Five inmates have been sleeping on mattresses on the floor of the new Cork Prison in the past two days.
The measure has been taken because there were 301 inmates in the prison which has a capacity for 296. At present, overcrowding is an issue in Cork, Limerick, and the Dochas women’s prison at Mountjoy.
The figures are revealed after Independents4Change TD Clare Daly obtained statistics from the Department of Justice which showed that there was an average of four prisoners a night sleeping on mattresses on the floor of Cork Prison earlier this year.
While numbers fell subsequently, Cork Prison has been operating at close to, and full capacity, throughout recent weeks.
A spokesman for the Irish Prison Service said the Cork facility is under pressure at present because construction work is underway at Limerick Prison, meaning that offenders cannot be transferred there from Cork.
He said the nearest prison available now for transfers from Cork is the Midlands, which he added was not practical as it “is a long way from families.”
He said that the Irish Prison Service makes every effort to keep prisoners as close to their family as possible, where appropriate, to assist in their rehabilitation and reintegration.
The prison opened in early 2016, replacing the older prison nearby. Overcrowding had consistently been an issue in the old prison but it had been anticipated that the new prison would operate under capacity. The IPS spokesman said that the body is obliged to accept all prisoners committed from the courts. He added that the IPS does not have the option to refuse to take in new prisoners.
He added: “While increases in prisoner population numbers result in challenges within certain committal prisons, the Prison Service takes all possible steps to alleviate the situation through a combination of inter-prison transfers and other contingency measures.
“Officials in the Prison Service work closely with Governors of affected prisons to alleviate capacity issues, by identifying prisoners who may be suitable for transfer to other prisons or prisoners who may be suitable for structured early release.”