Who goes to Prison?

Prisoners in Ireland

John on the Prison Carousel

Having completed a nine-month sentence, John was released from Mountjoy Prison in March 2007. For the entire duration of his imprisonment, John was ‘on protection’, because of fears for his safety. This meant that he spent twenty-three, and sometimes almost twenty-four, hours each day locked up in a cell on his own. When he was released he had no place to live. Homeless and adrift, he began to drink heavily and to abuse prescription drugs. Over the next few weeks, he was arrested several times for being drunk and disorderly and for shoplifting.

In June 2007, he was committed to Cloverhill Prison and spent two months there awaiting sentence – again on twenty-three hour lock-up. After two months, he appeared in court and received a three-month sentence. He was then transferred to Mountjoy Prison, but since his sentence had been backdated to include the two months he had already spent on remand in Cloverhill, and since he was also entitled to remission, he was released after just one day.Carousel

Back on the streets, he tried to make a new start but by late September he was once more in Cloverhill Prison awaiting trial, again for the same type of offences. After a two-week remand, the court sentenced him to a month’s imprisonment. So again he was transferred to Mountjoy, where he spent less than a week.

Now released, he is once more homeless, though trying to link in with support services that might help. He is also facing two more charges for offences he is alleged to have committed during summer 2007 and it is possible that he will be back in Mountjoy again before Christmas.

So far, then, in 2007 John has been in two separate prisons, and has spent close on two hundred days behind bars, spread over three separate periods. This has cost the prison service about €60,000; the Court Service costs and the cost of Garda time involved in arresting, questioning, charging and sentencing John would no doubt amount to substantial additional sums.

During the course of his time in prison, John never saw a counsellor, a probation officer or attended any training or education programmes. This is despite the fact that he has a serious drink problem, is addicted to drugs and has no formal educational qualifications. The only rehabilitative measure he accessed was his daily dose of methadone. Even were he to have had contact with support and rehabilitative services in prison, it is open to question whether they could have made any real impact over such short periods of time in two separate prisons.