The Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Mr. Alan Shatter T.D., today published the report of the Limerick Prison Visiting Committee.
The function of Visiting Committees is to visit the prison to which they are appointed and hear any complaints which may be made to them by any prisoner. The Committees play a vital role in ensuring the quality of accommodation and catering, medical, educational and welfare services and recreational facilities.
The Minister said “I welcome the report and wish to thank the Visiting Committee for their valuable work. I am pleased to note the praise for the Governor and staff of Limerick Prison”.
The Minister also said that “I am particularly pleased to note the positive comments in terms of the improvements made in addressing overcrowding through prisoner management, the progress being made on the upgrading of the services infrastructure and the good results being delivered through the Incentivised Regime. The general praise for the efforts of Limerick Prison management and staff to eradicate drugs and reduce violence in the prison are also very welcome”.
The Minister acknowledged the concerns raised regarding the need to expand training and the range of activities available to female prisoners and for a more family friendly visiting regime. The Minister responded to these concerns by saying that “A programme of works has already been agreed to improve visiting arrangements in Limerick Prison. In early 2012 the Director General instructed that a Families and Imprisonment Group be established in order to examine how family supports available to prisoners can be maintained and strengthened. A key element of this study is how visiting arrangements can be rendered more family and child friendly. Specific improvements to visits areas for both males and females have been identified. These include:
· Redecoration to improve appearance
· Improvements to acoustics
· Redesigned lighting
· Introduction of table and chair visiting arrangements, particularly for female prisoners with children and male prisoners on the enhanced regime.
It is expected that work in these areas will be completed by Spring 2014”.
The concerns raised in relation to a number of complainants who were transferred either prior to or shortly after meeting the Committee were also noted and the Minister stated that “The Committee have stated that they are satisfied that these were a coincidence. I am advised by the Irish Prison Service that prisoners are permitted to request a meeting with the Visiting Committee should they so wish prior to departing the prison”.
The Committee acknowledge the excellent working relationship which exists between all the agencies and NGOs concerned with prisoner welfare. They also highlight the involvement of the Irish Red Cross in the prison, the listener project which will be rolled out next month and the introduction of the Gaisce Award during 2014.
Finally, Minister Shatter said that “the construction of a new wing at Limerick Prison, to replace the outdated accommodation in the existing A and B Wings, forms part of the Irish Prison Service 40-month capital plan.
The first phase of this development will include the construction of a new 100 cell accommodation block for male prisoners while the second phase will include the construction of a new 50 cell accommodation block for females prisoners and a range of ancillary works. Enabling works for the project are already well advanced and the tender process for the first phase is underway.”
The report, along with previous reports, is available on the Department’s website www.justice.ie