High voter turnout among prisoners around the country

High voter turnout among prisoners around the country

There was a far greater turnout by voters registered to vote at Mountjoy prison in the recent European and local elections than in some of the surrounding areas outside the prison in Dublin.

According to figures provided by the Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan, there was a 67% turnout of those prisoners registered to vote at Mountjoy in the European and local elections along with the divorce referendum that were staged on May 24 last.

In the figures provided, of the 143 prisoners registered to vote at Mountjoy, 96 did turn out to vote.

The turnout was even higher in the female Dóchas centre where out of the 12 prisoners registered to vote, 10 voted - a turn-out of 83% of registered voters.

Minister Flanagan provided the figures in a written Dáil reply to Dublin Central TD, Maureen O’Sullivan.

Maureen O’Sullivan
Maureen O’Sullivan

Deputy O’Sullivan said on Friday: “I am very much heartened by the turnout of registered voters in Mountjoy. The turnout in Wheatfield and the Midlands prison of registered voters was also high.”

She said: “The figures for those prisons show that these prisoners are very much politically aware and the turnout in Mountjoy would be far higher than in some areas outside the prison in that part of the city where there was a turnout of 30% at some polling stations.”

Mountjoy is the shining light in the Irish prison system as far as participating in elections is concerned accounting for 74% of all those who voted across the prison estate in the recent elections.

The figures show that there was a 100% turnout of prisoners registered to vote at Arbour Hill where all six registered to vote turned out to vote.

Deputy O’Sullivan described this turnout as “incredible”.

The overall figures for the prisons show that 143 prisoners voted which makes up 3% of the 4,664 prisoners that were behind bars on May 24 last.

However, Deputy O’Sullivan said that the bulk of the Irish prison population would be jailed for short periods where prisoners would not feel the need to register to vote.

The figures show that the turnout in Wheatfield prison was 46% of registered voters with 20 of the 43 voters coming out to vote.

In the Midlands prison, only eight prisoners were registered to vote, but seven voted - a turnout of registered voters of 87.5%.

There was also a 100% turnout in Portlaoise prison where only two prisoners are registered to vote.

High voter turnout among prisoners around the country

However, outside those prisons, the picture is quite mixed with one prison, Cork where there were 363 behind bars on May 24 last - having not a single prisoner registered to vote.

Limerick prison had a prison population of 333 on May 24 last but not one prison voted where there are four prisoners registered to vote.

No prisoner voted either at Cloverhill jail where four prisoners are registered to vote.

In his written reply, Minister Flanagan said that considerable efforts were made to facilitate prisoner voting prior to the May 2019 elections and referendum.

He stated that the Irish Prison Service complies with the provisions of the Electoral Amendment Act 2006 in the context of facilitating prisoner voting in general and local elections and referenda.

He said that this is done through information on voting contained in the induction packs presented to all prisoners on committal while prison officials have worked closely with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government in producing an information leaflet for prisoners on prisoner voting.

Minister Charlie Flanagan
Minister Charlie Flanagan

This leaflet is widely available in all prisons.

Minister Flanagan stated that all prisons have a stock of ballot application forms available to prisoners on request while all prisons also have a designated official who has been appointed with responsibility for the facilitation of prisoner postal voting.

He said: “Prisoners have access to a range of media forms including newspapers, radio and TV through which they are kept informed of current affairs.

"The extensive educational facilities available in the various institutions also play a role in this process of increasing prisoner awareness of political developments.”

Minister Flanagan said: “Both the library service and the educational services in the prisons play a valuable role in increasing awareness among prisoners of their rights in this area.”

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