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New jail will not be a 'super-prison', authorities insist

THE new Thornton Hall jail campus will be able to hold a maximum of 1,400 prisoners in single cells, it emerged last night.

Its design will allow the prison service to increase the population to 2,200 by doubling up in cells but it is not intended to exceed the single cell figure.

The service's director general, Brian Purcell, said the extra capacity in the design was aimed at meeting any demand for additional space for at least the next 50 years.

Denying claims that Thornton Hall would operate as a "super jail", the authorities pointed out that it will be a campus development, containing eight individual and "practically self-contained" facilities.

The campus -- set on a 140-acre site in north Co Dublin -- is aimed at replacing the four jails, Mountjoy male, Dochas women's centre, St Patrick's institution for young offenders and the Training Unit, which are all currently situated at Mountjoy

Option

An adjacent site of 20 acres has been set aside for the Department of Health if it wishes to take up the option of relocating the Central Mental Hospital there. That option is currently under consideration.

The prison service does not require planning permission for the development but as part of its requirements under the Prison Act, it is publishing an environmental impact assessment in today's newspapers.

The document, including a non-technical summary, is also being made available at Fingal Co Council offices in Swords and Blanchardstown, the Department of Justice in Harcourt Street and the Irish Prison Service headquarters in Longford town.

The assessment includes a description of the physical characteristics and land use requirements, the impact of construction works on the environment, particularly fauna, flora, soil, water, air, cultural heritage, landscape and population, and the measures being taken to prevent, reduce or offset any significant adverse effects. Members of the public have six weeks from today to submit written observations.

A separate site is also being made available for the construction of a new garda station at Thornton.