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Question

141. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality her plans to reduce the prison population to a safe custody maximum of 2,850. [12657/16]

Answer

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I am advised by the Irish Prison Service that figures in relation to the prisoner population and capacity levels are published on their website www.irishprisons.ie on a daily basis. The Deputy should be aware that the overall bed capacity of the Irish Prison System is 4,202. On 27th May, 2016 there were 3,749 prisoners in custody. This represents a occupancy rate of 89%.
I am also advised by the Irish Prison Service that it is continuing to reduce the capacity of our prisons to align with the Inspector of Prisons recommended bed capacity of 3,997 in so far as this is compatible with public safety and the integrity of the criminal justice system. On 27th May, 2015 there were 3,749 prisoners in custody which is 94% of the Inspector's recommended total capacity of 3,997. Significant decreases in prison numbers have taken place since 2011. The Deputy may wish to note that the number in custody reached a peak of 4,621 on 23rd February 2011. On the 27th May, 2016 there were 872 less prisoners in custody, a decrease of 19%. There are no plans to reduce the capacity of our prisons to 2,850 as suggested by the Deputy.