Attendance at open prison activities poor

THE new prison inspector has found that a large percentage of inmates at an open centre are not engaged in any structured activity.

Judge Michael Reilly said this was “not acceptable” and said only about 40% of prisoners marked down for work or education classes were actually doing so.

In his first inspection report since assuming office last January, Judge Reilly said Loughan House in Co Cavan had generally good facilities and prisoners had no significant complaints.

He said his team conducted an unannounced inspection in April 2008, followed by an announced follow-up in June and an unannounced inspection in August.

Loughan House is an open centre for male offenders, with 130 inmates.

Its entire population consists of prisoners transferred from closed prisons to complete the remainder of their sentence in a more free and relaxed environment.

While inmates sent there are serving a range of sentences, from short sentences for minor offences to longer sentences for more serious crimes, they are only accepted if they are assessed as low risk and drug free.

Judge Reilly said there was “a large number of prisoners” who did not appear to be involved in any kind of structured programmes and lack of resources was “not acceptable” as a reason.

Judge Reilly said that on the day of his initial inspection, 86 prisoners were timetabled to attend class, but only 35 were present.

He said that on his visits he found that, apart from the kitchen, the uptake for work by prisoners amounted to less than 40%.

Given that Loughan House was aimed at drug-free inmates, a massive 44% of prisoners looking to be transferred there either tested positive to drugs or refused to be screened.

“Given this is supposed to be a coterie of prisoners who are drug free this is a matter of serious concern and suggests the overall level of drug abuse in our prisons is very high indeed.”

He said 28 mobile phones had been confiscated in the first five months of 2008; 43 inmates had left the centre without permission between August 2007 and July 2008, and 12 had not been returned. He said this should be seen in the context of Loughan House being an open centre.

He said two isolation rooms had caused him “great concern”. They were in poor condition, lacked proper ventilation and cell alarm buttons did not work but the prison was working to rectify the matter.

Judge Reilly said teachers had identified 90 students between December 2007 and May 2008 as not being able to read or write.

There were 30 foreign prisoners who could neither read nor write in English.

He said the new school building was modern and spacious and 127 inmates received training awards in 2007.


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