The Prison Service said there was a “re-evaluation” to close Cork Prison even though €5.5m had been spent on plans to develop the jail.
It followed a report by the then prisons’ inspector Mr Justice Kinlen, in which he said Justice Minister McDowell planned to replace the prison with a jail for 800 on Spike Island in Cork.
Justice Minister Michael McDowell confirmed that a new 450 inmate prison to replace Cork Prison and parts of Limerick Prison was to be located on the army lands in Kilworth.
Inspector of Prisons Judge Michael Reilly said slopping out was “inhumane and degrading” and that the State faced “the live prospect” of being sued in Irish and European courts.
The 2010 report of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) slammed “debasing” and “degrading” conditions in a number of prisons, including Cork, as a results of slopping out. It said 309 prisoners were crammed into cells at Cork Prison designed for 146, with no in-cell sanitation. In one cell three prisoners on protection, spending up to 23 hours locked up, did not have a chamber pot, shared a bottle to urinate and a plastic bag to defecate.
The report of the Prison Service Thornton Hall Review Group said there was “urgent and critical need for intervention” in Cork Prison. The group said it was “extremely overcrowded” and that this combined with the poor conditions exposed the State to “legal and financial risk”. It urged the closure of the prison and the construction of a new prison in Kilworth, Co Cork, which would provide 200 cells with a capacity for 350 prisoners. It said 150 spaces should be provided in “secure step down, housing type, facilities” on the site.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter requested the new Director General of the Prison Service, Michael Donnellan, to devise a specific strategy for Cork Prison.
The Cork Prison strategy report said prisoner numbers had been reduced to 250, to be cut further to 220. It said the Inspector of Prisons set the maximum capacity at 194. It said the IPS and Cork Prison examined options for the jail, but all recommended a new 150 cell prison on the car park site.
Prison Service Director General Michael Donnellan announced that slopping out will be gone from all prisons, including Cork, by early 2016.
In a report, the Inspector of Prison Judge Michael Reilly said the prison “is not fit for purpose” and it is “dangerously overcrowded”. He said that if for any reason a decision is made not to build the prison or if the construction is unduly delayed it would be a “dereliction” of his duty if he did not call for “the closing of the existing Prison altogether”.
The Cork Prison Visiting Committee said there was a “constant and unacceptable overcrowding problem” in the jail, which it described as “archaic and Dickensian” in parts.