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Irish Independent: Prison chief hits back after governor quits women's jail

27th April 2010

In today's Irish Independent, Brenda Heffernan reports on the resignation of the Governor of the Dóchas Centre, the female prison on the Mountjoy site, and the rejection of her claims of being undermined by the head of the Irish Prison Service.

"Kathleen McMahon tendered her resignation yesterday as governor of the Dochas Centre in Dublin, saying her role had become "completely impossible". She claimed that new measures, such as the introduction of bunk beds to cope with chronic overcrowding, had been brought in without her approval. Ms McMahon also accused officials of making unannounced visits to "check up" on her and prison staff."

The article reports that prison reform campaigners have called on Minister for Justice, Dermot Ahern to take responsibility for overcrowding at the Dochas Centre.

The prison was designed to hold 85 inmates in single rooms. But as recently as two weeks ago, there were 130 women in the prison, with as many as five women sharing one room.

The article also quotes Paul MacKay, an outgoing member of the Mountjoy Prison visiting committee, on his horror at the appalling conditions experienced by prisoners and the "indifference" shown by officials from the IPS, the Department of Justice and politicians.

The article finishes with a statement by IPRT's Liam Herrick that Ms McMahon had taken a brave and "unprecedented" step for staff and prisoners at the Dochas Centre and it was critical that her resignation was a watershed for policy towards women offenders.

"If the governor of a prison says that she cannot do her job under these conditions, then the onus is on Government to address the issues of policy that have precipitated the growing overcrowding crisis," he added.

Read the Irish Independent article in full here.