Prison report recommends allowing long-term prisoners use phones in cells

The Irish Penal Reform Trust says allowing life serving prisoners to have a phone in their cell is a good idea.

The Irish Prison Service has made the recommendation in a report that is yet to be published, to prevent long-term inmates from becoming institutionalised.

526 illicit mobile phones were seized in Irish prisons in 2016.

Deirdre Malone from the Irish Penal Reform Trust says life prisoners should be allowed to keep up with what is going on in the outside world.

"What was envisaged, I think, is that a very cautious approach to providing in-cell phones to certain prisoners who are serving life sentences," Ms Malone said.

"The average length of those sentences would be 19-20 years.

They could have an in-cell phone in order to stay in touch with family members, perhaps elderly members of the family or those who are not in the jurisdiction.

John Whelan from Sentence and Victim Equality says sentences are already too lenient and people in prison should not be able to avail of extra phone privileges.

"I know of families who are part of our group and who know already that the perpetrator in their crimes is in contact with their families over the phone," Mr Whelan said

"It's happening anyway, and when we as victims hear this it's quite hurtful to think that's going on.

It's like they're living in hotels.

Former prison officer and Criminologist, John Cuffe says it would be difficult to monitor and there are other more pressing issues that need to be dealt with in Irish prisons.

"I don't think it's a crying out problem in the prison service at the moment," Mr Cuffe said

I think there are other issues in the system and for prisoners that need addressing.

I think it's not something that's that necessary.

Digital Desk

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