Prison Service boss Michael Donnellan has rejected criticisms from prison officers that violent inmates were being rewarded by special gardens and luxuries like fish tanks.
Mr Donnellan said that while it might be easier to inflict an “authoritarian regime” on inmates, the Irish Prison Service had a responsibility to try and reduce the likelihood of reoffending.
He was responding to comments made by the Prison Officers’ Association at their annual conference in Athlone — including in relation to what they said was a €100,000 “horticultural garden” for the most notorious of criminals in Midlands Prison.
Mr Donnellan, IPS director general, said the garden actually cost under €30,000 and pointed out that it had a responsibility to deal with all convicted prisoners in a realistic and meaningful way in order to reduce their likelihood of reoffending.
He said they did not have the liberty to select which prisoners receive such interventions.
“While it might seem easier in the short term to lock certain prisoners in their cells and provide an authoritarian regime, all prisoners, even life sentence prisoners, will at some stage return to their community and such action only serves to increase the risk that a prison would pose to society,” he said. “Punitive regimes do not work.”
At the conference, it was claimed that convicted murderer Warren Dumbrell was being provided with this new garden in a bid to rehabilitate him.
The Dublin man is kept separate from other prisoners because of his violent record in prison.
POA assistant general secretary Gabriel Keaveny said the individual was getting “special treatment” and estimated the cost of providing the garden, including some demolition of existing buildings, in the region of €100,000.
“We are saying that to get these facilities you need to work for them and show that your behaviour deserves it.”
Fellow POA officer, deputy general secretary Jim Mitchell said this “policy of appeasement doesn’t work”.
Mr Donnellan confirmed that a range of enhanced facilities had recently been provided at Midlands Prison for prisoners who don’t have free association among the general prison population.
“These include a new horticultural area for prisoners on the E & G block which houses mainly sex offenders of which there over 200, a new lifers area of which there are over 100, and the area referred to which has been created for prisoners on C1 who cannot associate with any other prisoners. The cost of this was less than €30,000,” said Mr Donnellan.
On a related issue, Mr Donnellan said there were 12 major criminal gangs in seven prisons, comprising a total of around 70 people.
He rejected POA claims the Prison Service appeased these inmates and said they were “on top of them”.
He also rejected calls from the association for these gang members to be removed from other inmates to reduce their influence.
Mr Donnellan said this would ghettoise them, cause a breakdown in relationships and create no-go areas.
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