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26 May 2016

Revolutionising Security at Cork Prison


The Irish Prison Service (IPS) operates as an executive agency within the Department of Justice and Equality. IPS deals with male offenders and female offenders who are 18 years of age or over, across 12 establishments.

Over the years the Service has continued to implement a comprehensive capital programme of works to modernise and improve the physical conditions of the prison estate including reducing overcrowding and eliminating “slopping out”.  Among these enhancements included the construction of a new prison in Cork to replace an existing 19th century prison facility on the same road.

Cork Prison is a closed, medium security prison for adult males. It is the committal prison for counties Cork, Kerry and Waterford.  Conditions in the old prison were wholly inadequate, both in terms of its size and its lack of in-cell sanitation.  Designed for 146 inmates and with a maximum capacity of 194, its committal figures in mid-2010 reached a peak of 330, with up to 60 cells at the time sleeping three.

Construction of a new €45m prison in Cork commenced in January 2014 and opened in February 2016.  The new prison was designed to accommodate 169 cells with an operational capacity 275.


Optimising the security of the new prison was one of the core infrastructural considerations for the Prison Service to include within their design brief.  Key issues included Locking, CCTV, Audio Visual (AV) communication and Access Control, which included the monitoring and control of

  • Electronic Doors
  • Monitored Doors
  • External Gates
  • AV units

Lava engaged extensively with IPS project team including members from the Building Services Division, Governors and Operational Staff from Cork Prison, as well as the main Building Contractor P.J. Hegarty & Sons.


On the basis of a detailed analysis of the client’s operational needs, Lava designed and developed an Access Control and Door Locking system tailored to the needs of Cork prison which included the supply, installation and commissioning of all related equipment.

Utilising Tephra’s Electric Locking; this secure access solution provided the capability to control and monitor a wide range of custodial and standard locks e.g. Chubb and Pickersgill-Kaye and other door peripherals such as biometrics, intercom systems, RFID readers, and cameras.  

This next generation locking solution delivered a number of technological advances including:

  • Supporting future security challenges by offering greater flexibility for access management through the use of proximity tags, biometric devices, intercoms and cameras. It significantly reduces future manpower required to change a lock type or access method by utilising the same cabling and controller. New lock or access method can be integrated without any cabling or alterations to the door during installation.
  • Irrespective of the custodial or electro-mechanical lock type, Tephra’s Electric Locking offers a flexible operation with a number of inputs and outputs for control of lock and door peripherals. 
  • Advances over traditional Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC) based solutions were offered as regards security, flexibility and cost effectiveness.  Flexible software control such as variable access rules and interlocking relationships were facilitated.  The interlock groups are fully software programmable, requiring no physical changes to the system.  Significant savings therefore were achieved relating to cabling, containment and labour costs.
  • The solution is controlled from an intuitive graphical interface which displays a customisable map of a location which shows all doors under control and their current status, enabling remote locking and unlocking.  The system monitors the door status and shows the operator if a door is open /closed, locked / unlocked, mastered or has an alarm such as a tamper. 
  • The system has been designed to eliminate single point of failure. The controller contains on-board memory to allow continued standalone operation for token reading, lock control and event recording during any server communication failure.


The new Access Control solution in Cork is a central component to the prison’s security regime and supports the Service to ensure a safe and secure environment by streamlining security operations effectively. The solution provided the Service with

  • An integrated access control system enabling staff to easily manage security applications remotely from control consoles, either for normal operation or supporting staff during an incident; enabling rapid response to time critical incidents.
  • A future proof system giving the flexibility to add extra layers of security at each door without affecting cabling infrastructure.
  • Greater control of access rights into the facility and easy management of access privileges allowing for fast and efficient movement across the site.
  • Greater accountability with a real time record of who, where, when and what happened, providing an independent and verifiable proof of interactions with lock and peripheral devices.

Lava’s high level of engagement with us led to a good understanding of our requirements. The service provided by Lava staff and management is very professional and supportive as well as flexible in their approach to our needs.  As such they were able to provide a high quality access control solution which exceeded our expectations.

They have a key understanding of how prisons work and the operational challenges faced by our Officers. The system integrates alongside the doors, intercoms and biometrics providing our staff with greater control of movements within the site.

The systems provided are proving to be of the highest quality with excellent after sales service which is essential to ensuring best practice regarding the safety and security of our prison.

Chief Officer IPS

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