In his final report released this evening, the former Inspector of Prisons, the late Mr. Justice Dermot Kinlen, described the Irish prison system as 'a disastrous failure.'

In his Annual Report for 2006, which was his fifth such report, Mr Justice Kinlen, who passed away earlier this year, said the current prison system 'practically guarantees' that young people who serve prison sentences will re-offend.

Following his previous criticisms of overcrowding, and lack of acceptable standards of education and living in certain prisons, the late judge stated in this report that due to the number of people re-offending upon release from prison, the Irish prison system had been a disastrous failure.

This evening, the Irish Prison Service said it rejected the assertion that Irish prisons were failing.

Director General Brian Purcell said rehabilitation was only one purpose of imprisonment, along with retribution, incapacitation and deterrence.

He said he welcomed the inspector's positive remarks regarding a number of prisons, including Wheatfield and Castlerea.

This evening, there are 3,212 people serving sentences in Irish prisons.

In his role as inspector of prisons, the late Mr Justice Dermot Kinlen was a long time advocate of a belief that the primary purpose of imprisonment was rehabilitation..

Today, an edited version of the final annual report that Mr Kinlen compiled was released by the Department of Justice.

Also tonight, the Department of Justice released a report of the late Judge's final visit to a prison in June of this year.

Mr Justice Kinlen found Cork Prison was overcrowded and largely lacked in-cell sanitation.

The Prison Service says that a new prison to be built in Co Cork in the coming years will address the concerns raised by the former inspector.