Issue 11 - December 2010

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Prison conditions

Overcrowding in the prisons was the focus of a short senate debate in November (Seanad Eireann, Debates, 11th November 2010, 693-704).  Ronan Mullen (independent, National University) drew attention to an October report which found that Mountjoy was overcrowded, unsafe, unhygienic and grossly overcrowded.  The prison review committee in 2009 found that there had been little change in fourteen years.  Judge Reilly’s report had found it vermin infested, with up to six prisoners sharing a cell and in some cases without beds.

Dan Boyle (GP, Taoiseach nominee) held the view that ‘the more people we imprison, the less successful we are as a society’.  He criticized the Irish Prison Service and the Department of Justice for their knee-jerk reactions to organizations like Amnesty International and the Irish Penal Reform Trust, even if they were over-zealous in seeking better standards, but ‘they should be engaged with in a sense of partnership rather than in confrontation’ and too often we had seen that attitude displayed not only toward non-governmental organizations but people appointed on an independent basis to assess the quality and effectiveness of our prisons.

Paul Bradford (FG, agricultural panel) spoke of how the majority of prisoners came from a particular socio-economic background, which was regrettable: ‘we must try to ensure children remain in school and enhance and increase opportunities for those people for whom a life of crime becomes a natural outlet’.
> Restorative justice projects and progress: Dail Eireann, Debates, 25th November 2010, 340-1.