The Irish Prison Service (IPS) has spent more than €325,000 providing inmates with access to Sky Sports and other premium channels during the past four years, new figures have revealed.
A total of €6,730 a month was paid to multi-channel providers last year so that prisoners could enjoy some of the most expensive digital TV packages while they serve time behind bars.
All inmates have access to free-to-air channels on televisions in their prison cells, and can upgrade to digital packages by having a small sum deducted from their daily pocket money. Prisoners can also access premium channels such as Sky Sports in the recreational areas of enhanced landings – common areas equipped with large television screens.
A deduction of 15 cent for in-cell television services is automatically taken from the daily gratuity payment that every inmate receives from the IPS.
The prison service has defended its expenditure on premium TV services for prisoners, stating that incidents of self-harm and suicide had been dramatically reduced since the introduction of televisions. An IPS spokesman said: “Prisoners serving sentences are very much isolated from society and access to televisions, radios and newspapers are important to help keep prisoners connected with society and their communities."
All prisoners receive ‘pocket money’ of up to €2.20 per day, which can be used to buy non-essential goods such as cigarettes, sweets and computer games. It can also be used to pay the small fees for access to digital TV subscriptions.
More than €2.8 million was doled out to inmates in pocket money last year, according to records released under the Freedom of Information Act. Prisoners can also earn an additional €3.50 per week for chores such as cooking and laundry.
A total of €80,760 was spent by the IPS on multi-channel services last year, representing a small reduction from the €83,357 that it paid for the same services in 2017. The expenditure on channel subscriptions in 2016 and 2015 was €82,144 and €80,356, respectively, bringing the total over the four-year period to €326,617.
The IPS said it is not possible to provide a breakdown of payments for individual channel packages, but confirmed that Sky Sports is among the premium TV channels made available to prisoners.