Fine Gael Cork South Central Deputy, Jerry Buttimer, has today (Thursday) welcomed the publication by the Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter, of the Thornton Hall Review Group Report which deals with, among other things, the overcrowding and physical conditions in Cork Prison.

“The Thornton Hall Review Group Report looked at the state of Cork Prison and examined the timeframe for the Kilworth Prison project. I am delighted that the Government has, in principle, accepted the Report’s recommendations and that the progression of Kilworth Prison will be on the agenda for discussion in the autumn when the Dáil reconvenes.

“It is worrying, but perhaps not all that surprising, that the Report found that Cork Prison should be closed at ‘the earliest possible opportunity’. Solace can be taken from the fact, however, that the Government will be prioritising discussions about a replacement prison at Kilworth when it meets to consider capital spending priorities for 2012.

“Overcrowding and poor physical conditions in our prison system have been the subject of numerous reports over the years. While I appreciate that funds are exceptionally scarce, it is in everybody’s interest that humane conditions are provided for our prisoners and that prison staff have a safe environment in which to work.

“The Report recommends that the proposed site at Kilworth should contain 200 cells with the capacity to accommodate up to 350 prisoners. It also proposes 15 step-down facilities to house 150 prisoners; an essential provision, in my opinion, in phasing prisoners out of the prison system and back into society.

“In recent years our prisons have been bursting at the seams as prisoner numbers soar. This has also led to a situation whereby an increasing number of prisoners are being granted temporary release. This is something that simply cannot be ignored.

“Yesterday in the Seanad, a key piece of legislation, the Criminal Justice (Community Service) (Amendment) (No.2) Bill 2011, concluded the legislative process. This will compel judges to consider community service in place of a sentence of 12 months or less, which will go some way to reforming our prison system and addressing the deficiencies that exist. I have no doubt that Minister Shatter is intent on doing just that.”