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Minister for Justice Helen McEntee visits new Limerick Prison expansion and announces publication of the Irish Prison Service Annual Report for 2021

The Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee TD has today visited Limerick Prison to review its major expansion project, which is nearing completion, and also published the 2021 Annual Report of the Irish Prison Service.


This expansion will provide a new accommodation block for male prisoners and a new standalone female prison. 


The opening of new male accommodation in Limerick in late 2022 will result in an additional 90 prisoner cell spaces being available and the completion of a new standalone female prison will provide accommodation for a minimum of 22 additional prisoners. 


The Minister was accompanied by the Director General of the Irish Prison Service and took the opportunity to speak with management and staff of Limerick Prison. 


 Speaking during her visit, the Minister praised the Irish Prison Service for its work:


These works are clear evidence of the Government’s continued investment in the capital development of the prison estate to ensure we have adequate capacity in our prisons.


“I am hugely impressed by the new facility here in Limerick Prison which demonstrates the Irish Prison Service’s commitment to the provision of safe and secure custody in facilities that are designed to support prisoner rehabilitation.”


The Irish Prison Service committed in its strategic plan to the elimination of the practice referred colloquially as ‘slopping out’, through the provision of in cell sanitation in the older parts of the prison estate where that practice remains.


Completion of these works is another step to achieving this essential goal and will end the practice of slopping out at Limerick Prison.


The Minister also noted the highly innovative accommodation which is built specifically for the needs of women.


The Minister said:


“It is important that our prisons cater for the specific needs of women. This new facility has been carefully designed to meet these needs and will help the women prisoners there to address the factors that led to their offending and provide them with opportunities for a better life post imprisonment.”


On Irish Prison Service Annual Report, the Minister noted the prison system is now returning to more normal activity following the Covid-19 pandemic.


The Irish Prison Service Annual Report notes the reduced committals to prison as a direct result of the impact of the pandemic. While this allowed the Irish Prison Service to keep prison numbers at a manageable level to support infection control in 2020 and 2021, 2022 has seen a sustained increase in prisoner numbers being experienced across the system


“We are expanding capacity, not just here in Limerick but also with the additional spaces that have already been provided by the reopening of the Training Unit in Mountjoy Prison as a facility for older prisoners earlier this summer.


“I know that the need to ensure the continued availability of modern prison facilities with adequate capacity will be central to the development of the new Irish Prison Service Capital Strategy 2023.” 



The Minister added: 


“Considerable progress has been made on the Programme for Government commitment to consider the mental health and addiction challenges of those imprisoned, and primary care support on release.


“I met recently with the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, and Ministers of State Frank Feighan and Mary Butler to discuss the work of the High Level Taskforce to consider the mental health and addiction challenges of persons interacting with the criminal justice system.


“I look forward to bringing it to Government very soon.”


Minister McEntee also again took the opportunity to acknowledge the efforts of the Prison Service staff to keep those in custody safe during the pandemic.


The Minister congratulated the Service on winning a Civil Service Excellence and Innovation Award in 2021 for “Leading Reform During COVID-19”, which was recognition of the efforts made by staff across the organisation to maintain the provision of essential services in the most challenging environment. 


The Minister said 


I would like to congratulate the Irish Prison Service for their notable success in the management of Covid-19 in our prisons and their continued protection of vulnerable people in a very challenging environment. Their service during the pandemic was an outstanding example of public service at its finest.”


The Minister also noted that the Irish Prison Service continued to implement its strategic objectives while managing the prison system throughout the pandemic and had, in most cases, met the Output Targets agreed with the Department of Justice including the advancement of the Limerick Prison construction project, the management of prison numbers, and the continued provision of essential prisoner services such as Psychology, Education, Work and Training and Drug Treatment. (Detailed information on the delivery of Output Targets is set out in Pages 11 – 13 and in the chapter on Strategic Objectives Pages 46 – 63.)



A copy of the Irish Prison Service’s Annual Report for 2021 is available at: IPS_Annual_Report_2021.pdf (






Notes For Editors


Key statistics from Prison Service Annual Report 


  •  The overall daily average number of prisoners in custody in 2021 was 3,792 compared to 3,824 in 2020, a decrease of 0.84% (-32). 


  •  The daily average number of female offenders in custody was 144, a 2.7% (-4) decrease on the 2020 average of 148. 


  •  There was a 0.76% (-28) decrease in the daily average number of male offenders in custody, from 3,676 in 2020to 3,646 in 2021.


  •  There were 6,133 committals to prison in 2021, a 3.3% decrease on the number of committals in 2020 (6,340).


  •  5,179 persons were sent to prison in 2021 compared with 5,263 in 2020, a decrease of 1.6% (- 84). Of those persons committed, 76.5% were male and 7.9% were female.


  • There was an increase of 138 or 3.6% in the total sentenced during 2021 from 3,803 in 2020 to 3,941 in 2021. Of the 3,941 who were sentenced, 601 persons were committed in a previous year and subsequently convicted in 2021.


  •  Committals under sentence increased in all areas except those receiving a sentence 1 to < 2years and 2 to < 3 years.


  •  People receiving a sentence of less than 3 months increased by 16%  (+82)  from 511 2020  to 593 in 2021. 


  •  The number of people receiving a life sentence increased by 58.3% (+7) from 12 in 2020 to 19 in 2021.

  •  There was a reduction in the number committed for the non – payment of a court ordered fine from 285 in 2020to 234 in 2021. Of this, 82.9% were male and 17.1% were female.


  • In 2021, there were 86 committals in respect of immigration issues involving 83 detainees. This represents a 65.2% (-161) decrease in such committals on the previous year.



When Fine Defaulters are excluded from these figures:


  •  Committals under sentence have increased by 189 or 5.4%, from 3,518 in 2020, to 3,707 in 2021.


  •  The number who received a sentence of less than 3 months has increased by 82 or 16%, from 511 in 2020 to 593 in 2021.


  •  The number who received a sentence of 3 to less than 6months has increased by 148 or 14.5% from 1,023 in 2020 to 1,171 in 2021.


  •  The number who received a sentence of 6 to <12 months has increased by 6 or 0.8% from 778 in 2020 to 784 in 2021.


  •  The number who received a sentence of 1 to <2 years has decreased by 45 or 12.8% from 352 in 2020 to 307 in 2021.


  •  The number who received a sentence of 2 to <3 years has decreased by 46 or 14.4% from 320 in 2020 to 274 in 2021.


  •  The number who received a sentence of 3 to <5 years has increased by 18 or 5.3% from 337 in 2020 to 355 in 2021.


  •  The number who received a sentence of 5 to <10 years has increased by 1 or 0.6% from 164 in 2020 to 165 in 2021.


  •  The number who received a sentence of 10 years plus has increased by 18 or 85% from 21 in 2020 to 39 in 2021.


  •  The number who received a Life sentence has increased by 7 or 58.3% from 12 in 2020 to 19 in 2021.