500 fewer inmates as jailings for fines drop
The prison population has dropped by more than 500 inmates in the past year, according to the latest figures.
The decrease is partly attributed to greater use of non-custodial sanctions, structured temporary release, and a reduction in custody for non-payment of court-ordered fines.
The population fell to 4,025 at the weekend, compared to 4,536 a year ago – an 11.25pc fall.
However, almost half of the 15 prisons are operating above their official capacity.
The most overcrowded is the female unit in Limerick jail, which houses 34 women inmates, compared with an official figure of 24. This means it is operating at 142pc of its capacity.
Also officially deemed overcrowded are the Mountjoy female unit (the Dochas centre), Cork, Limerick male prison, Castlerea, Arbour Hill and Cloverhill remand prison.
Information supplied by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald to the United Nations human rights committee meeting in Geneva showed there had been 50 deaths in custody since 2008.
The cause of death in 31 cases has been determined and include 11 by misadventure, nine suicides and five from natural causes.
The minister also revealed that only five 17-year-old remand prisoners remain in St Patrick's institution.
All sentenced 17-year-olds were moved to dedicated units within Wheatfield Prison in west Dublin.
Responsibility for that group will transfer from the Department of Justice to the Irish Youth Justice Service when Oberstown campus in north county Dublin is completed in the autumn.
Mrs Fitzgerald said all prisons would have full in-cell sanitation when the new jail in Cork was completed in 2015.
She said that the number of offenders sent to prison because of the non-payment of a court-ordered fine dropped last year to 8,121 – last Tuesday only five prisoners, or 0.1pc of the jail population, fell into that category – and the vast majority of those spent less than two days in custody.