A leak has flooded the busy school area of Cork Prison, but the cells have not been damaged writes Liz Dunphy.
A water tank on the roof above the school, in the new, €42m prison development, started leaking on Wednesday night.
Builders are fixing the problem, which the Prison Service said is linked to a faulty ballcock valve that regulates water levels.
The Prison Service hope to have the area dry, and fully functional, by Monday.
They said that some teething problems are to be expected in a new development, but that the move from the old facility has been positive for both inmates and staff.
Hygiene levels have improved dramatically in the new facility, and each cell has an en suite, so the slopping-out system, which was still required in the old facility, has now ended.
Meanwhile, a new initiative with the Samaritans, called the Listeners’ Scheme, has proved very beneficial in Cork Prison, since the move.
The programme facilitates peer-to-peer listening and counselling — inmates in Cork Prison are trained to work as Samaritan volunteers to help fellow inmates through difficult times.
According to the Prison Service, those inmates who have become listeners have found it beneficial and have begun to thrive behind prison walls.
Prisoners are first selected from an interview process held for inmates who express interest in becoming a ‘listener’. The scheme is in operation in prisons in Dublin and is also operated in every prison in the UK.
Cork Prison was the first in Ireland, outside of Dublin, to have such a service.
Director of the Cork branch of the Samaritans, Cindy O’Shea, said: “We will train prisoners to listen to each other and we also go in once a week, ourselves, to talk to prisoners who need to talk to someone like us. The training of the prisoners will give them the skills to be Samaritans, or listeners, themselves.”
She added: “There will be roughly one listener to 50 prisoners and any prisoner who needs to talk to someone will know they have somewhere to go.”
Ms O’Shea said prisoners can feel very isolated and alone in prison, particularly if family members are going through hardship and they are not there to help them through it.
She added: “Prisoners have been removed from their own local network and are institutionalised, in a way. They can feel very helpless in prison.”
A special room has been assigned in Cork Prison for the Listener Scheme, where inmates can meet their designated listener to talk through their problems in a non-judgemental way.
This article first appeared in the Evening Echo.