Prisoner taxi fares cost taxpayer over €500,000

Midlands Prison the biggest spender on trips – in large part for court visits and to hospital

In total, taxi fares for prisoners countrywide came to €553, 334 over the past four years.

In total, taxi fares for prisoners countrywide came to €553, 334 over the past four years.

 

More than half a million euro has been spent on taxi fares for prisoners over the past four years.

Figures released by the Irish Prison Service (IPS) show private taxi companies are earning tens of thousands of euro every year on lucrative contracts to ferry inmates mostly to court or hospital appointments.

An IPS spokesman said prisoners are not always chaperoned on the journeys, with flight and security risks assessed on a “case by case basis”.

“It might be that it is a female prisoner who has a hospital appointment for her pregnancy. And she would be granted temporary release, or maybe an inmate is due for release soon and they have a college course appointment,” he said.

“It happens where it is suitable and the likelihood of the prisoner absconding is low.”

The figures, released under Freedom of Information, show huge variances on total taxi fare bills from prison to prison.

Midlands Prison, a medium-security facility for adult male offenders in Portlaoise, Co Laois, is the biggest spender on private taxis. It paid A1 Taxis €239,306 between 2015 and this year.

Prisons by the numbers

Limerick Prison, which holds men and women, spent €119,421 on a contract with a firm called Conway’s. While Castlerea, a medium-security jail for remand and sentenced men in Connaught, paid Healy Transport €77,989 over the same period.

Cork Prison has had two contracts since 2015, paying Satellite Taxis €35,107 and Cork Taxis €45,290.

All the Dublin prisons – including Mountjoy, Arbour Hill, Cloverhill and Wheatfield – collectively had the second lowest bill. A contract with Xpert Taxis totted up fares of €19,871.

The Irish Prison Service College in Portlaoise paid M&A Coaches Ltd €16,350 over the past four years.

In total, taxi fares for prisoners countrywide came to €553, 334 over the same period.

The IPS spokesman said it has in the past carried out research with a view to replacing taxis with official vehicles but “in the vast majority of cases, hiring the taxi made economic sense”.

On the variances of bills, the spokesman said prisons outside of Dublin use private taxis for hospital appointments or court hearings more frequently than in the capital.

“These journeys tend to be longer in distance and time therefore incur higher costs,” he said.

Cost-benefit analysis

“In these cases it can occur that one prisoner is required to present at a regional hospital or court location and for operational reasons it is more practical and cost effective to use a taxi in these circumstances rather than deploy a multioccupancy cellular vehicle with a single prisoner.

“Prisoners being transported to Dublin courts are in the main transported using multioccupancy cellular vehicles operated by the Prison Service Escort Vehicles.”

Jim O’Callaghan, Fianna Fáil justice spokesman, called on Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan to order a fresh cost-benefit analysis of money spent on the transportation of prisoners.

“It is not always necessary for a prisoner to appear at all court hearings and video technology should be availed of more to reduce the requirement to transport prisoners,” he said.

“Where prisoners require hospital attention, they should be accompanied by prison staff.”