Sewerage problems contribute to overcrowding at Limerick Prison

The Limerick Prison campus at Mulgrave Street.

DOZENS of inmates at overcrowded Limerick Prison were sleeping on mattresses and sharing cells as a result of new €60 million development the jail being left largely unused because of sewage and odour problems.

New cells on the prison’s B-Wing were due to open in phases after building work was completed late last year but a full opening will not happen until the second quarter of this year.

Prisoners were moved to the top level of the new three-floor unit in December, but shortly afterwards issues were noticed with the sewerage system in the ground floor cells, making them unusable.

According to the Sunday Independent, the issues were linked to blockages and build-ups in pipes leaving about 60 cells on the ground floor and the second level unused, despite chronic overcrowding across the prison network.

Another 30 cells are currently in use despite complaints about smells rising from the ground floor cells.

Sign up for the weekly Limerick Post newsletter

Sources said that up to 20 male prisoners a day were sleeping on mattresses or sharing cells and there have been cases of three female prisoners sharing cells because of overcrowding.

The Irish Prison Service (IPS) said that sewerage issues at the new B-Wing had been resolved at no additional cost as they were subject to a “defects liability period” in the project contract.

Limerick Prison was criticised for overcrowding in a recent report by the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT). Published earlier this month, the report stated that rehabilitation services could not be delivered effectively to prisoners because there were more prisoners than beds in the system.

Figures from the IPS last week showed there are 4,426 prisoners in custody across the service. Of these, 122 are sleeping on mattresses. A spokesman said that 16 male prisoners and 14 female prisoners in Limerick are sleeping on mattresses.

A new standalone women’s prison on the Mulgrave Street campus is expected to be operational later this year and will accommodate 50 prisoners.

Prison Officers Association deputy general secretary Gabriel Keaveny said overcrowding poses challenges and risks for prisoners and staff.