Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has agreed to consider alternative locations for a step-down facility to house female ex-prisoners as the first choice site has provoked controversy being in the vicinity of no less than eight schools.
Westview House on Patrick’s Hill in Cork City is being considered by the Department of Justice as a facility to house females from Limerick Prison.
The proposed facility would house prisoners for the end of their jail time, post release, or as an alternative to a custodial sentence.
A hostel was operated at Westview House but the building is to pass to the Department of Justice later this year. The probation hostel was run as a day centre for young offenders.
The site for the proposed step-down facility is within 100 metres of eight schools including Hewitt College, Bruce College, Christian Brothers primary and secondary schools, St Angela’s College, Scoil Mhuire primary and secondary schools, and Happy Days Montessori.
Cork North Central TDs Dara Murphy of Fine Gael, Jonathan O’Brien of Sinn Féin, and Deputy Billy Kelleher of Fianna Fáil met with Minister Fitzgerald this week to discuss the project. She informed the TDs that no decision would be made on the use of Westview House until a new Government is formed.
A public meeting was recently held in relation to the project. Residents expressed concern about possible addiction problems and levels of re-offending by prisoners. Concern was also expressed about the lack of parking and infrastructure in the area for such a project.
It is understood residents will take an injunction through the courts to prevent the Department of Justice from opening such a facility on the site if all other avenues fail.
Cllr Tim Brosnan of Fianna Fáil said residents are vehemently opposed to the project. “It is not a case of NIMBYism. It just isn’t a suitable site with so many schools nearby. Patrick’s Hill is an iconic view point in Cork city. It is a tourist area. If you are going to have something like this, which is needed, the obvious thing to do is build it in the county.”
He said it would be “totally unacceptable” to have a facility which would encourage loitering in the area.
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