99. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of prisoners sleeping on mattresses on the floor each night in all prisons during February, March, April and May 2019. [24704/19]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): I wish to inform the Deputy that the information in relation to the number of prisoners sleeping on mattresses on the floor each night in all prisons during February, March, April and May 2019 is available in the tables at the link as provided by the Irish Prison Service.
I am advised that the attached tables reflect the number of instances of prisoners sleeping on mattresses on cell floors in Castlerea, Cloverhill, Cork, the Dóch as Centre, Midlands and Limerick prisons each night during the period in question. I am further advised that in the remaining 6 prisons, no prisoner slept on the floor.
The Deputy will appreciate that prison Governors are required by law to accept all prisoners into their custody who have been committed to prison by the Courts. The Irish Prison Service therefore has no control over the numbers committed to custody at any given time.
My officials in the Irish Prison Service work closely with the Governors of affected prisons to alleviate capacity issues, by identifying prisoners who may be suitable for transfer to other prisons or prisoners who may be suitable for structured early release. Decisions in relation to temporary release are considered on a case by case basis and the safety of the public is paramount when decisions are made.
I can further advise the Deputy that my Department has been working closely with the Director General of the Irish Prison Service to ensure a safe working environment for staff and the safety and security of prisoners in our custody and we are taking a number of short and medium term steps to address the issue of increasing prison numbers.
I am aware that plans are advanced for the re-opening of accommodation not currently being used within the system, including the re-opening of the Training Unit which itself will provide approximately an additional 90 spaces.
In addition, an audit of existing accommodation is underway, in order to identify where additional spaces can be brought on stream with the potential to provide in excess of an additional 100 spaces.
I can also advise the Deputy that the construction of a new female prison in Limerick as well as a new wing to Limerick male prison which will provide 130 new spaces.