THE Department of Justice said prisoners who endure overcrowded cells in Irish jails should not be eligible for compensation payments, despite a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.

Two prisoners who were forced to endure inhumane conditions for several years in a Polish jail were recently awarded €6,500 in compensation at the court, sparking real concerns of a similar flood of claims in Ireland.

However, the Department of Justice said the cases were "particular" to the Polish system and did not apply in Ireland, where overcrowding is a recent phenomenon.

The two Polish inmates had made repeated complaints about the conditions of their detention. On a number of occasions, the men were held in cells shared with other prisoners with less than three square metres of living space.

The European Court said that it had been established beyond any doubt that the men's cells had been overcrowded and that they didn't have enough room.

Chronic overcrowding exists in a number of Irish prisons and authorities have been forced to dramatically increase the numbers on temporary release to cope with it.