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Question

151. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality her plans to work towards single cell accommodation as the best-practice norm across in prisons. [12668/16]

Answer

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I am advised by the Irish Prison Service that figures in relation to cell occupancy levels are published on a quarterly basis on their website www.irishprisons.ie. The latest cell accommodation census was produced in April this year and showed that on 7 April, 2016 there was 3,782 prisoners in custody and 2,020 (approximately 53%) had access to single cells.
It is clear, given the current number of prisoners in custody, that the Irish Prison Service is not in a position to provide single cell accommodation to all prisoners at this time. I can inform the Deputy that all committals are assessed upon arrival to prison. This assessment process also seeks to ensure that wherever possible, prisoners are accommodated in cells appropriate to their needs. Some prisoners are more suited to multi-occupancy cells, while others are more suited to single-cell occupancy. It should be borne in mind that in certain cases prisoners are housed together for reasons other than lack of capacity. Family members and friends often elect for or are assigned a shared cell. Shared cell accommodation can be very beneficial from a management point of view particularly for those who are vulnerable and at risk of self-harm.
The Deputy will appreciate that my officials are concentrating on aligning our prisoner population numbers with the Inspector of Prisons' recommended bed capacity of 3,997 insofar as this is compatible with public safety and the integrity of the criminal justice system.
I wish to add that the Director General of the Irish Prison Service accepted the recommendations contained in the Report of the Commission of Investigation into the Death of Gary Douche (commonly referred to as the McMorrow Report). A "Cell Sharing Risk Assessment Policy" has been drafted and is currently being piloted in Midlands Prison.