The Irish Prison Service (IPS) spent €440,000 over the past two years purchasing 2,505 TVs for inmates.
New figures provided by the IPS in response to a Freedom of Information request show that, last year, the IPS paid out €224,435 on 1,276 TVs for inmates.
This followed the IPS spending €215,992 on 1,228 new TVs for inmates in 2014.
In addition, the IPS spent €169,648 over the past two years — €85,898 in 2015 and €83,750 in 2014 — on Sky Sports and other TV channels through the provision of multi-channel services. Access to Sky Sports is available only for well-behaved prisoners on ‘enhanced landings’ at prisons through communal TVs in recreation areas.
However, the IPS pointed out yesterday that the net spend on prison cell TVs for prisoners in 2015 and 2014 was quite small as the service last year received €203,000 in rental receipts from in-mates for cell TVs and this followed €214,000 received in rent for the cell TVs in 2014.
They are currently 4,336 prisoners in jail across the prison system and the €417,000 in rental payments over the two years arise from each inmate paying 15c per day, or €1.05 per week, to rent a TV from the IPS.
Prisoners pay the same amount per day to access the Prison Service’s phone service.
The 15c payments are deducted at source from the prisoners’ weekly gratuity payments that range from a net daily gratuity of 95c to €2.20 with prisoners allowed maximum gratuity of €18.90 per week.
A spokesman for the IPS said yesterday that TVs were first introduced into prison cells in 2002.
He said: “Following the introduction of TVs, the incidents of self-harm and suicide dramatically dropped in our prisons. Prisoners serving sentences are very much isolated from society and access to televisions, radios, and newspapers are important to help prisoners keep connected with society and their communities. In addition, they also provide entertainment when locked in their cells. Most prisoners spend, on average, 16 hours per day locked in their cells.”
The spokesman said access to stations such as Sky Sports is available for prisoners on enhanced landings via the communal television sets provided in the recreation areas.
He said: “Prisoners have access to a basic multi-station TV package in their cells. This would be similar to any basic cable TV or stations that are available on free-to-air TV.”
The latest figures from the IPS show 46% of prisoners are on the enhanced regime; 46% on the standard regime; and 8% on basic.
The IPS said: “The objective is to provide tangible incentives to prisoners to participate in structured activities and to reinforce good behaviour, leading to a safer and more secure environment.”
To qualify for progression to the enhanced level, prisoners must participate actively in structured activities in education, work/training and/or offender programmes with approved services for at least five defined periods a week, unless circumstances outside their control prevent this level of engagement.
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