Nineteen inmates of Cork Prison temporarily released to ease overcrowding are “unlawfully at large”.
The prisoners were given temporary release between September 1 and December 1 to make way for new inmates.
The number of prisoners in the facility reached crisis point in recent weeks, with 280 inmates at the building at the end of November. The prison has a design capacity for 150. Today there were 254 prisoners in the prison.
Prison sources said that there are three inmates in some cells which were designed for one.
A spokesman for the Irish Prison Service confirmed 19 prisoners are “unlawfully at large” from Cork Prison, having either not returned to serve the remainder of their sentence when supposed to, or not having signed on weekly at the prison.
The spokesman said: “The vast majority of those at large were close to the end of their sentences. Before being given temporary release, they would have been assessed and the vast majority of those at large now would have been in prison for minor offences.”
The spokesman did not elaborate on the nature of the offences.
He said that each prisoner given temporary release first had to supply an address where they would reside during the release period.
Gardaí in these areas have been informed by prison authorities in situations where prisoners have not abided by the terms of their release. Gardaí have the power to arrest these people and return them to prison if they turn up at the address, while they are “unlawfully at large”.
Councillor Colm Burke, a solicitor, said he was extremely concerned that prisoners who should be back in the prison are unlawfully at large.
And he said the situation highlighted a drastic need for more prison spaces.
Cllr Burke said: “Judges are being criticised for not imposing mandatory sentences for offences but we don’t have the prison spaces for this.”
The prison on Spike Island was closed in April 2005. There are plans to develop a new prison for the Munster region which Government sources now indicate will be in Kilworth.
There are also plans to develop a prison in Thornton Hall as a replacement for Mountjoy.
Article courtesy of The Evening Echo newspaper.