Justice Minister Alan Shatter said that, given the current financial situation, it would not be prudent to build the super-jail at Kilworth, on 150 acres of land owned by the Department of Defence.
In Jan 2007 the then minister, Michael McDowell, said that instead of modernising the antiquated prisons in Cork and Limerick he intended to build a 400-cell jail at Kilworth.
However, the Government has decided this is not feasible and intends to build a new prison in the car park next to the present jail in Cork City, which will have a capacity for 250 inmates.
Mr Shatter acknowledged that facilities at the current jail “were wholly inadequate, both in terms of its size and in relation to the lack of in-cell sanitation”.
Building a new prison would eliminate the practice of prisoners having to slop out, he said, and it would “provide adequate and suitable accommodation for all prisoners in accordance with our national and international obligations”.
He said building on the existing car park would also “ensure value for money for the taxpayer”.
In an effort to reduce chronic overcrowding in jails, the minister said he was also looking at providing certain low-risk offenders with community work.
This is being developed by the Irish Prison Service with the Probation Service.
“The intention is not simply to relieve overcrowding but also to develop a more integrated approach to the management of offenders while in custody and on release into the community,” he said.
“Building a bridge from the community into the prison ensures that prisoners can tap into, at an earlier stage, the available supports and programmes in their communities, which is essential in aiding their reintegration back into the community on release from prison, and reducing repeat offending.”
Junior minister Sean Sherlock said it made sense in cost-effective terms to scrap the proposed super-jail and he welcomed Mr Shatter’s plans to address overcrowding in the city prison.
Jim Nash, Kilworth Community Council secretary, said the majority of villagers welcomed the news. “It wasn’t a suitable place as there was no infrastructure and no bus or rail connections. It would have been like building a new town on top of a village and we would have had concerns that visitors to the jail could have been responsible for petty crime locally.”
Prison Officers’ Association deputy general secretary Jim Mitchell said his organisation also welcomed the building of a new jail in the city. “For the last three to four years it had housed around 300 prisoners, which is double what it was built for. Cork is traditionally the most overcrowded prison in the system.”