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Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton visits Castlerea Prison and announces the publication of the Irish Prison Service Annual Report for 2020

  • Report focuses on the challenges faced by the Prison Service in controlling the risk of Covid-19.
  • Notes progress on the Prison Service's long term strategic goals.
  • Minister thanks staff, prisoners and their families for combined efforts to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in prisons.


July 30 2021


The Minister of State for Civil and Criminal Justice, Hildegarde Naughton TD, has today published the 2020 Annual Report of the Irish Prison Service following her visit to Castlerea Prison. The Minister met with the Director General of the Irish Prison Service, Caron McCaffrey, and the management, staff and prisoners working and living in Castlerea Prison.


Minister Naughton commended the prison staff on how they have dealt with the significant challenges faced in controlling the risk of Covid-19 infections in Irish prisons.  She also observed the excellent work being done by the Irish Prison Service in Castlerea, including the development of the first prison equine centre in Europe.


Speaking at the prison earlier today, the Minister said,


“The efforts of the Irish Prison Service to control the spread of Covid-19 in prisons over the past 18 months have been phenomenal. Their previous experience of infection control combined withthe efforts of prisoners and service providers has very much helped control outbreaks and prevent loss of life in Irish prisons.


“I would also like to acknowledge the support and sacrifices made by the prisoners’ families who adapted to the use of alternative means of connecting with their loved ones in prison in order to keep them safe. These efforts have paid off. Not one prisoner has died from Covid-19, or even required hospitalisation, since the outbreak of the pandemic.


Minister Naughton also congratulated the Prison Service on the acknowledgment they received from the 2020 Civil Service Excellence and Innovation Recognition Awards on the innovative measures introduced to ensure prisoners continued to have as much access as possible to rehabilitation and other services, and continuing contact with their families, adding that,


“I am pleased that the Prison Service will be continuing to use such innovations asvirtual family visits, virtual service provision, tele-services, video link for court attendance, and electronic funds transfers to prisoner accounts, which will continue after this crisis passes. I believe they will be of great help to staff, prisoners and their families going forward”.


The Report notes that the overall daily average number in custody in 2020 was down by about 4% on 2019. This is partly attributed to the temporary release measures in March-May 2020, but also due to the impact of Covid-19 on court sessions, reducing the number of committals through the year by 29% compared to 2019.

The report also notes the increased activity of the Inspector of Prisons in 2020 as the Office deployed additional resources and published its framework for inspections. 

Minister Naughton also commented on the upcoming review of prison and penal policy and the work of the High Level Taskforce which is considering the mental health and addiction challenges of people interacting with the criminal justice system.

“Work is well advanced in the Department of Justice on a review of policy options for prison and penal reform to examine how we can reduce reoffending and make our communities safer. I look forward to publishing its initial findings in the autumn.

“The establishment of the High Level Taskforce on Mental Health was key to the Government’s commitment to ensure the critical mental health needs for people in prison are met, addiction treatments are provided and primary care support is available on release, so we can better help individuals and for society.

“The Taskforce is also due to provide an interim report to both the Minister for Health and I by the end of September, and an implementation plan will be published by the end of the year.”

Finally, the report also notes the continuing work on the joint IPS/Probation Service strategy including leading the November 2020 launch ofthe Department of Justice Social Enterprise and Employment Strategy, Working to Change 2021-2023

Note for editors:


A copy of the Irish Prison Service’s Annual Report for 2020 is available at

Budget/ Spending/Staff

The IPS Budget for 2020 was €408 million, of which €15.66 million was additional funding from a Supplementary Estimate and the Government Covid Stimulus package. Covid related expenditure amounted to approximately €7 million. At year end IPS had 3,455 staff, with 138 new recruits and 100 retirements during the year

IPS Strategic Plan


Despite the priority of managing the challenges posed by Covid-19 the Irish Prison Service continue to deliver on the actions contained in its Strategic Plan. This Report also gives a detailed account of progress on the delivery of actions contained in the Strategic Plan.


Highlights include


  • progress towards a functional model of management within prisons,
  • increased resources for chaplaincy and medical services (including a Head Chaplain),
  • the delivery of the Criminal Justice Housing First initiative (jointly with Probation Service),
  • The continued introduction of technologies to prevent contraband in prisons including anti-drone technology, 
  • Despite some delays experienced due to the closure of construction sites there was significant progress achieved on the construction of new accommodation and facilities in Limerick Prison. It is expected that the new wing, which includes accommodation for both male and female prisoners, will be ready for use in late 2022.



Key statistics from Prison Service Annual Report


  • The overall daily average number of prisoners in custody in 2020 was 3,824 compared to 3,971 in 2019, a decrease of 3.7% (-147).


  • The daily average number of female offenders in custody was 148, a 12.9% (-22) decrease on the 2019 average of 170. There was a 3.3% (-125) decrease in the daily average number of male offenders in custody, from 3,801 in 2019 to 3,676 in 2020.


  • Committals under sentence decreased in all areas except life sentences.


  • The number of people receiving a life sentence increased by 33.3% (+3) over the period.


  • People receiving a sentence of less than 3 months declined by 48.7% (-756) from 2019 to 2020.


  • There was a reduction in the number committed for the non – payment of a court ordered fine from 861 in 2019 to 285 in 2020. Of this, 76.8% were male and 23.2% were female.


  • There were 6,340 committals to prison in 2020, a 29% (-2,599) decrease on the number of committals in 2019 (8,939).


  • 5,263 persons were sent to prison in 2020 compared with 7,170 in 2019, a decrease of 26.6% (-1,907). Of those persons committed, 89.4% were male and 10.6% were female offenders in custody was 165, a 14.6% increase on the 2017 average of 144.


  • There was a decrease of 1,887 or 33.2% in the total sentenced during 2020 from 5,690 in 2019 to 3,803 in 2020. Of the 3,803 who were sentenced, 690 prisoners were committed in a previous year and subsequently convicted in 2020.



  • In 2020, there were 247 committals in respect of immigration issues involving 245 detainees. This represents a 49.6% (-243) decrease in such committals on the previous year.


When Fine Defaulters are excluded from these figures:


  • Committals under sentence have decreased by 827 or 17.1%, from 4,829 in 2019, to 3,518 in 2020.


  • The number who received a sentence of less than 3 months has decreased by 107 or 15.4%, from 693 in 2019 to 511 in 2020.


  • The number who received a sentence of 3 to less than 6 months has decreased by 468 or 29.1% from 1,607 in 2019 to 1,023 in 2020.


  • The number who received a sentence of 6 to <12 months has decreased by 217 or 18.8% from 1,153 in 2019 to 778 in 2020.


  • The number who received a sentence of 1 to <2 years has decreased by 16 or 4.0% from 402 in 2019 to 352 in 2020.


  • The number who received a sentence of 2 to <3 years has decreased by 18 or 5.3% from 339 in 2019 to 320 in 2020.


  • The number who received a sentence of 3 to <5 years has decreased by 5 or 1.2% from 401 in 2019 to 337 in 2020.


  • The number who received a sentence of 5 to <10 years has decreased by 19 or 10.1% from 188 in 2019 to 164 in 2020.


  • The number who received a sentence of 10 years plus has decreased by 12 or 32.4% from 37 in 2019 to 21 in 2020.


  • The number who received a Life sentence has increased by 3 or 33.3% from 9 in 2019 to 12 in 2020.