The man who heads up Irish jails said yesterday that “a humane prison service is about trying to take people who are broken and build them back up again”.
Michael Donnellan also asserted that bad behaviour by inmates is not rewarded.
The director general of the Irish Prison Service said: “Absolutely not. As a prison service we need to reward good behaviour and punish bad behaviour and all our programmes and all the work we do is to discourage prisoners from violence.
“No level of violence in the prison service is tolerable and certainly we do all we can to motivate prisoners away from violence”.
He told the annual Prison Officers’ Association’s conference: “We have some very troubled and troublesome prisoners, and we do everything we can to think outside the box to try and re-engage them, because all of these people are going back out into society and it’s our job in prison to rehabilitate people. So to crush people more, in my experience, and internationally, doesn’t really work. It makes people more angry. So what you’ve got to try and do is build people up so we can have a safer society.”
Mr Donnellan said the service takes a very hard line on assaults against staff. “Any assault on a prison officer is a criminal offence, is investigated by the gardaí and prosecuted by the gardaí through the DPP. The criminal law is very clear on this.
“Any assault on a prison officer can carry a sentence of up to seven years, and can run consecutively to their current sentence. That is the current law.
“So every assault on a prison officer is immediately investigated by the gardaí and they bring the necessary charges.”
He said prisons work in partnership with the courts to rehabilitate prisoners. “When the courts sentence prisoners they sentence them as a punishment, not for punishment. In saying that, no level of violence is tolerable.”
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