Words: Dray Morgan
A women’s prison in Limerick has been upgraded to a trailblazing piece of Irish infrastructure that prioritises prisoner development and encourages rehabilitation through therapy and support.
A women’s prison on Mulgrave Street has been completely revamped following a 53 million euro injection, showcasing the potential for a more progressive approach to rehabilitation in the future.
The prison is based on a Scandinavian trauma-informed approach towards incarceration and time served. Acknowledging the variety of reasons that someone may go to prison, such as mental health issues, addiction, previous trauma and socioeconomic situations it intends to foster rehabilitation and reduce the rate of people reoffending.
This is the first time a prison of this kind has been built in Ireland, moving towards a prison system more akin to that seen in Scandinavian countries. The intention is for life to resemble the outside world as much as possible, in order to tailor inmates for their release date and see that they do not become victims of institutionalisation.
The prison is also equipped with a landscaped garden, creative spaces and vibrant artwork, a stark contrast to the previous design of Ireland’s oldest prison. Since 1821, Limerick’s female prison had undergone very few changes, culminating in a huge level of overcrowding.
To combat this, addiction recovery facilities, vocational training and healthcare will be provided to those who arrive at the prison. All 56 cells are designed for single inhabitants and have been renamed to rooms. Each is complete with an ensuite, telephone and television. Inmates will have access to a gym three times a day, seven times a week and there is also therapy and counselling services available.
Speaking at the opening Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, called the establishment “Particularly impressive”, commending how research gathered throughout the pandemic has now been taken into account and implemented.
Figures published by the Central Statistics Office found that 55.2 per cent of people released from prison in 2014 reoffended within three years. In response, the Irish Government have allocated 24 million euro extra in Budget 2024, to help revamp the Irish judicial system.
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