End of ‘slopping out’ in Limerick Prison as compensation costs mount

The interior of Limerick Prison.

WITH inmates at Limerick Prison no longer obliged to urinate and defecate in buckets since earlier this year, there are now only eight prisoners across the 4,409 bed capacity Irish prison system forced to engage in the practice known as ‘slopping out’.

The practice only ended at Limerick Prison in recent weeks with the completion of  construction on a new accommodation block at the Mulgrave Street building which dates back to 1821.

Justice Minister Simon Harris stated that with the completion of the works at Limerick Prison, there are only eight prisoners in  Portlaoise Prison who do not have access to toilet facilities in their cell and must ‘slop out’ on a daily basis.

He added that engineering surveys are being carried out to explore the options of providing in-cell sanitation at Portlaoise along with other work to upgrade accommodation.

Minister Harris explained that prior to the works at Limerick Prison, a number of major capital projects were undertaken by the IPS to eliminate ‘slopping out’ as well as upgrading accommodation in other prisons.

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Earlier this week, Minister Harris confirmed that, in the two and a half years to last June, the cost to the State for compensating prisoners who were forced to engage in ‘slopping-out amounted to  €7.62 million.

He said that the State Claims Agency (SCA) paid out €3.94 million in damages to 1,180 prisoners, with an average pay-out of €3,342 for each prisoner.

Legal costs amounted to €3.68 million, which almost equalled the total amount paid out in compensation.

These costs included fees to solicitors and barristers as well as  expert fees relating to actuarial, engineering and medical witnesses as well as VAT.

Solicitors representing the prisoners received €2.73 million while solicitors representing the SCA were  paid €957,558.

The SCA introduced a ‘scheme of settlement’ after a 2019 Supreme Court judgement in the ‘lead case’ found that the plaintiff, Gary Simpson, should be paid €7,500.

The court found that due to the absence of in-cell sanitation, it was a breach of prisoners’ constitutional rights forcing them to use a bucket as a toilet and empty it every morning.