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Sunday Tribune: 'I love it here at Dóchas'

9th May 2010

Prisoner Art: Dóchas Centre 2009In an article in the Sunday Tribune, Crime Correspondent Ali Bracken, describes the regime, as she found it, in the Dóchas Centre (Mountjoy women's prison.)

She describes how some prisoners don't want to leave, because the Dóchas Centre offers "the secure home environment they never experienced before." The article continues:

"While the women here are behind bars, life at the Dóchas Centre is far removed from the typical prison environment. The rattling of the keychain on the belt of the Sunday Tribune's guide during the visit is the only indication that we are inside a prison."

"The ethos of Dóchas is rehabilitation through care and com­pass­ion. While Dóchas is located within the Mountjoy complex, it is light years away from the archaic and inhumane regime at the men's prison."

The article reports that many of the prisoners are homeless and have nowhere else to go on release, with some women asking if they can come back in to use the showers.

When the reporter remarks on her observation that the women are very involved in running the prison - cooking, cleaning, taking out the rubbish - her guide tells her "It's not our job to judge people here. It's our job to rehabilitate and reform them. It's a good thing for them to feel they have responsibilities in here." 

The article goes on to discuss the overcrowding in the Dóchas which threatens its success as model prison, with up to 137 prisoners accommodated in a prison designed to hold 81.

When the proposed Thornton Hall prison is built, it is planned that the Dóchas Centre will also relocate there (a plan that IPRT is totally opposed to, as it will further separate women from their families and children) and the same ethos and regime as the Dóchas Centre will be developed. The article quotes Brian Purcell, Director General of the Irish Prison Service, on this:

"The Dochas Centre is our flagship model. The new facility will continue with that regime and improve on it, we will have a lot more space. The bunk-bed situation is not ideal. The regime we have for women at the Dóchas Centre works very well. It wouldn't necessarily work the same for male prisoners. Men and women are different. Men are from Mars, women are from Venus."

A comment added from a reader to the online article states: "It must not be as reported as soft regime as protrayed, when a governor resigns."

Read the Sunday Tribune article in full here.

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