Admission, placement and transfer in prisons
There are approximately 4,000 people in custody in prisons at any one time. There are 14 prisons and places of detention used to accommodate prisoners. Eleven are "closed" institutions with both internal and perimeter security, one is a semi-open place of detention which differs in that it has a reduced level of internal security. There are a further two institutions classed as open centres and there is a lesser emphasis on security in these centres consistent with their aim of promoting the reintegration of prisoners into the community.
The place that an offender serves their sentence in depends on a number of different factors relating to their security status, e.g. nature of offence, length of time served, behaviour in custody and previous offending record. In addition, the Prison Service will take into consideration other measures such as distance to the family home and the various rehabilitative programmes available in the different institutions before decisions are made on the most suitable location. The safety of prisoners is also an important consideration and every effort is made to place prisoners in accommodation where they will be protected from the risk of harm.
Section 35 of the Prisons Act 2007 provides for the making of rules for the regulation and good government of prisons. Prison Rules 2007 (SI 252/2007), as amended, sets out among other things the rules in relation to admissions and transfers.
Admission and placement
When someone has either been convicted of a crime and sentenced to a term of imprisonment or when a person is to be remanded in custody pending a further court appearance, a judge will issue a warrant addressed to the Governor of one of the committal prisons in the State.
These committal prisons and their catchment areas are as follows :
- Cloverhill Prison, Clondalkin, Dublin 22 is the committal prison for male adults remanded in custody from the courts in the Dublin and Leinster areas (with the exception of Longford) and from the county of Monaghan.
- Castlerea Prison, Co Roscommon, is the committal prison for male adults committed to custody from the courts in Connaught and from the counties of Cavan, Donegal and Longford.
- Cork Prison, Rathmore Road, Cork, is the committal prison for male adults committed to custody from the courts in the counties of Cork, Kerry and Waterford.
- Limerick Prison, Mulgrave Street, Limerick, is the committal prison for male adults committed to custody from the courts in the counties of Limerick, Clare and Tipperary and for adult females in all Munster counties.
- Midlands Prison, Portlaoise, Co Laois, is the committal prison for male adults committed to custody from the courts in the counties of Carlow, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Offaly and Westmeath.
- Mountjoy Prison, North Circular Road, Dublin 7, is the main committal prison for male adults committed to custody from the courts in Dublin city and county.
- Portlaoise Prison, Co Laois, is the committal prison for male adults committed to custody from the Special Criminal Court (a non-jury court used for subversive and certain gangland-related trials).
- St Patrick's Institution, North Circular Road, Dublin 7, accommodates a number of 17-year-old males on remand. Since 30 March 2015, 17-year-old males who are newly remanded in custody by the courts can be committed to Oberstown. It is planned to close St. Patrick's Institution.
- Wheatfield Place of Detention, Clondalkin, Dublin 22, is a place of detention for adult males and for sentenced 17-year-old males.
- Dochas Centre, North Circular Road, Dublin 7, is the committal prison for adult females committed on remand or sentenced from all courts outside the Munster area (adult females in Munster area are committed to Limerick Prison).
Once this warrant has been issued, the place where the sentence is to be served can be determined by the Minister for Justice and Equality. He can decide that the sentence be served in any of the above named places or in any of the following dispersal prisons/places of detention:
- Arbour Hill Prison, Dublin 7, a closed prison for adult males serving long sentences
- The Training Unit, Dublin 7, a semi-open prison for male offenders aged 18 years and over
- Shelton Abbey, Arklow, Co Wicklow, an open prison for male offenders aged 19 years and over
- Loughan House, Blacklion, Co Cavan, an open prison for male offenders aged 18 years and over
When a person is admitted to prison custody, he or she is searched and prohibited items and money are taken from the person and put in safe keeping until release. When a person is searched, he or she is treated, in so far as it is possible, with decency and self-respect and in as appropriate a manner as possible. Prisoners are not stripped or searched in the presence of another prisoner and female prisoners will be searched by female officers.
Shortly after committal, each prisoner will be examined by a medical officer who will record his or her state of health. He or she will also be interviewed by a prison governor who will explain the regime and entitlements.
Decisions about transfers are made either by the Minister for Justice and Equality or, on his or her behalf, by officials working in the Operations Directorate of the Prison Service Headquarters. An Order of Transfer, which is addressed to the Governor of the prison to which the person is being transferred, will then be prepared containing the details of the sentence that the person is serving or, where appropriate, the period on remand. The Prison Service will make every practical effort to reduce a prisoner's exposure to public view while being removed from or to prison.
As a prisoner, you have no legal right to serve your sentence in the prison of your choice. However, you may apply to the Governor for a transfer to another prison if you have a good reason.
Information and advice
The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) is a non-governmental organisation that campaigns for the rights of prisoners. On its website you can find information for prisoners and their families as well as information on organisations that provide advice and/or assistance.