Top 5 toughest prisons in Ireland, ranked

The toughest prisons in Ireland contain a wide variety of criminals, ranging from fraudsters and gangsters to murderers and thieves. 

While Ireland, in general, is an extremely friendly and safe country with citizens who have a welcoming nature, it does, like any country, have its own share of criminals, albeit a small amount of them.

The worst of these criminals are housed in some of the toughest prisons in Ireland.

These prisons are designed to not only house and rehabilitate its prisoners but are also intended to be impressive and secure structures which deter any attempted escapes and breakouts.

In this article, we will list what we believe to be the toughest prisons in Ireland.

5. Cloverhill Prison – a purpose-built remand prison

Cloverhill Prison is a purpose-built remand prison.
Credit: irishprisons.ie

Cloverhill Prison was opened in 1999 and located in Clondalkin in Dublin 22. It is a medium-security prison for adult males that mainly caters for remand prisoners who are committed from the Leinster area.

Cloverhill Prison is adjacent to Wheatfield Prison with which it shares many services.

Cloverhill Prison is a purpose-built remand prison which houses mostly remand prisoners. It and the Dóchas Centre, which is a women’s prison, hold 90% of people who are detained for immigration-related issues.

4. Midlands Prison – one of Ireland’s largest prisons

Midland Prison is one of the largest in the country.
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The Midlands Prison in Portlaoise, County Laois, is a medium-security prison that takes in prisoners 17 years old and above.

It has an operational capacity of 870 people, which is quite large compared to its counterparts and acts as the committal prison for counties Kildare, Carlow, Offaly, Westmeath, Kilkenny, and Laois.

The Midlands Prison was built near Portlaoise Prison, which it shares some facilities with it and was opened in 2000.

3. St. Patrick’s Institution – home to young offenders

Another of the toughest prisons in Ireland is St. Patrick's Institution.
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St. Patrick’s Institution on North Circular Road in Dublin 7 was a penal facility specially designed for 17 to 21-year old males and currently has a capacity of 217 beds.

St. Patrick’s Institution originally opened in 1956 when inmates from the Borstal in County Tipperary were transferred there.

In the last 20 years, an education unit was built as well as a special unit for boys aged between fourteen and sixteen years old.

While its prisoners are young, they have at times been as violent and unpredictable as older prisoners at St. Patrick’s Institution has in the past had notoriously high assault rates despite the low number of prisoners it has.

2. Castlerea Prison – holds the majority of Connacht’s prisoners

Another of the toughest prisons in Ireland is Castlerea Prison.
Credit: irishprisons.ie

Castlerea Prison in County Roscommon is a medium-security prison for adult males.

Castlerea Prison acts as a committal prison for remand and sentenced prisoners in Connacht and also happens to take committals from other nearby counties such as Cavan, Longford, and Donegal.

It currently has an operational capacity of 340 people. 

Castlerea Prison was first established as part of a system of district mental hospitals in 1939 and was converted into a prison in 1996 and has run as one ever since.

In 2013, Castlerea Prison was the most violent prison in the country with 115 assault by inmates being recorded.

1. Mountjoy Prison – the toughest prison in Ireland

Mountjoy Prison is one of the toughest prisons in Ireland.
Credit: irishprisons.ie

In first place on our list of the toughest prisons in Ireland is Mountjoy Prison, a medium-security prison for adult males.

It acts as the main committal prison for Dublin City and the overall county of Dublin, too.

Mountjoy Prison is commonly nicknamed as “the joy” and currently contains the largest prison population in Ireland.

Mountjoy has a long history as it was opened in 1850 and was first used as a place to hold men who were sentenced to transportation to Van Diemen’s Land. 

Mountjoy Prison has a dark and bloody history as a total of 46 prisoners, including a woman, were executed within its walls by hanging before the abolishment of capital punishment.

Many notable historical figures have also been held in Mountjoy Prison, such as playwright and IRA activist Brendan Behan, and the Fenian poet and author of the popular song “Rising of the Moon”, John Keegan Casey.

That concludes our article on the toughest prisons in Ireland, are there any other Irish prisons that you think are tough enough to be included on this list?