In all there are approximately 3,200 persons in custody in our prisons at any one time. At present, there are 14 prisons and places of detention used to accommodate prisoners in Ireland. Eleven are “closed” institutions with both internal and Perimeter Security one is a semi-open place of detention which differs in that it has a reduced level of internal security. There are a further two institutions classed as open centres and there is a lesser emphasis on security in these centres consistent with their aim of promoting the reintegration of prisoners into the community.
The place that an offender serves their sentence in depends on a number of different factors relating to their security status, e.g. nature of offence, length of time served, behaviour in custody and previous offending record. In addition, the Prison Service will take into consideration other measures such as distance to the family home and the various rehabilitative programmes available in the different institutions before decisions are made on the most suitable location. The safety of prisoners is also an important consideration in penitentiary system, and every effort is made to place prisoners in accommodation where they will be protected from the risk of harm.
Admission and placement
When someone in Ireland has either been convicted of a crime and sentenced to a term of imprisonment or when a person is to be remanded in custody pending a further court appearance, a judge will issue a warrant addressed to the Governor of one of the committal prisons in the State.
These committal prisons and their catchment areas are as follows:
- Cloverhill Prison, Clondalkin, Dublin 22 is the committal prison for male persons remanded in custody from the courts in the Dublin and Leinster areas (with the exception of Longford) and from the county of Monaghan.
- Castlerea Prison, Co Roscommon, is the committal prison for male persons committed to custody from the courts in the provinces of Ulster (with the exception of Monaghan) and Connaught and from the county of Longford..
- Cork Prison, Rathmore Road, Cork, for male persons committed to custody from the courts in the counties of Cork, Kerry and Waterford.
- Limerick Prison, Mulgrave Street, Limerick, for male persons committed to custody from the courts in the counties of Limerick, Clare and Tipperary.
- Portlaoise Prison, Co Laois, is the committal prison for male persons committed to custody from the Special Criminal Court (a non-jury court used for subversive and certain gangland-related trials).
- St Patrick’s Institution, North Circular Road, Dublin 7, accommodates a number of male persons aged between 16 and 21 years of age. There is no geographical restriction on persons sent to St Patrick’s and the courts from each county have the authority to send a male offender person within this age category to that Institution.
- Females are committed to Limerick Prison from courts in the Munster area.
- The courts in the other regions of the State use Mountjoy Prison as the committal prison for female offenders.
Once this warrant has been issued, the place where the sentence is to be served can be determined by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. He can decide that the sentence be served in any of the above named places or in any of the following dispersal prisons/places of detention:
- The Midlands Prison, Portlaoise, Co Laois, a closed prison for male persons aged 17 years and over
- Wheatfield Prison, Clondalkin, Dublin 22, a closed prison for male persons aged 17 years and over
- Arbour Hill Prison, Dublin 7, a closed prison for male persons aged 17 years and over
- The Training Unit, Dublin 7, a semi-open institution for male persons aged 18 years and over
- Shelton Abbey, Arklow, Co Wicklow, an open centre for male persons aged 19 years and over
- Loughan House, Blacklion, Co Cavan, an open centre for male persons aged 18 years and over
When a person is admitted to prison custody, he or she is searched and prohibited items and money are taken from the person and put in safe keeping until release. When a person is searched, he or she is treated, in so far as it is possible, with decency and self-respect and in as appropriate a manner as possible. Prisoners are not stripped or searched in the presence of another prisoner and female prisoners will be searched by female officers.
Shortly after committal, each prisoner will be examined by a medical officer who will record his or her state of health. He or she will also be interviewed by a prison governor who will explain the regime and entitlements.
Decisions about transfers are made either by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform or, on his or her behalf, by officials working in the Operations Directorate of the Prison Service Headquarters. An Order of Transfer, which is addressed to the Governor of the prison to which the person is being transferred, will then be prepared containing the details of the sentence that the person is serving or, where appropriate, the period on remand. The Prison Service will make every practical effort to reduce a prisoner’s exposure to public view while being removed from or to prison.