IPRT - Irish Penal Reform Trust

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Evening Herald: Jail overcrowding could end in death

15th October 2010

Writing in the Evening Herald, Charlie Mallon reports on the riot in Mountjoy which saw three officers hospitalised.

"The standoff is the third in recent months where the "get tough" policy of the new Governor has been applauded on the outside," he writes. "But the danger remains that a prison officer may end up paying with his life unless an effective strategy to deal with the underlying issues in Mountjoy is put in place."

He also reports that Executive Director of the Irish Penal Reform Trust, Liam Herrick, said that what had happened was "forseeable".

"He urged the Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern to put a strategy in place to address overcrowding, which has already led to many authorities labelling the prison as unsafe.

"The release of people down the crime ladder - those being jailed of non payment of fines, for example - might ease the pressure. Meanwhile, the prison management faces a logistical nightmare trying to keep the various warring factions of prisoners apart while keeping them out of society."

The article also reports on the 2008 report of the Inspector of Prisons (published August 2009), in which Judge Reilly clearly states that Mountjoy can accommodate 573 inmates but when he visited on two nights, the population was 660 and 680. The article quotes Judge Reilly thus:

"Mountjoy Prison cannot, at present, provide safe and secure custody for its prisoners. It is questionable as to whether the prison provides a safe environment for staff."

Read the article in full.