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Report Slams Irish Prisons

category ireland / britain | crime prison and punishment | opinion / analysis author Monday December 03, 2007 23:41author by ronan - Workers Solidarity Movement Report this post to the editors

A report by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture has found that conditions in several Irish prisons are extremely unsafe.

It reported that in Mountjoy, Limerick Prison and St Patrick’s in particular a high level of violence and intimidation between prisoners is the norm. It stated that the principal causes for this violence are a high level of drug use as well as a lack of purposeful activity for prisoners. The problems are only likely to get worse over the next few years as the number of drug gang members in prison increases.

The government’s response has only been to increase the screening of visitors to the jail to try and prevent drug smuggling rather than doing anything about the conditions that cause violence in prisons. The Irish prisons have appalling conditions, they’re dingy, unhygienic and are severely overcrowded. Not only that, but a massive number of Irish prisoners have histories of addiction problems and severe mental health issues. A report by the Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine found that 60% of female and 35% of male prisoners had suffered from a psychological illness in their lives, 65% and 80% had a drug or alcohol disorder in the previous six months and 40% and 25% had committed self harm. These problems cannot be dealt with by the prison services; their usual response is to hold someone in solitary ‘observation cells’, a treatment which often does more harm than good.

While the government likes to talk tough about ‘fighting crime’ what they really mean is fighting criminals and ignoring the social causes of crime. In Ireland there are unquestionable connections between crime, mental illness and social disadvantage. Continuing to shunt people with mental health and addiction problems into the prison service without providing treatment alternatives just maintains the cycle of disadvantage that causes crime and anti-social behaviour.

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