Visiting families ‘could be targeted’ on bus to prison

FAMILIES using the planned bus service to the new “super prison” in north Dublin for visits will be pressurised to carry drugs and targeted by other families to “settle scores” inside prison, it was claimed yesterday.

Fr Tony O’Riordan of the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice said the current anonymity families had visiting women in the Dochas Centre in Dublin’s north inner city would end by moving the prison to Thornton Hall in north Dublin. The Prison Service is planning to set up a bus service to take people to the remote facility, which is up to an hour’s drive from the city and not on any existing public transport route.

“We think the dedicated bus service is going to be a real disaster waiting to happen,” said Fr O’Riordan. “There’s anonymity at the moment. There’s shame in having people in prison. People get a taxi to the Mater [hospital, across the road from Dochas Centre]. That will be completely blown out of the water with a dedicated bus. Apart from the stigma, there is a small number who will exert pressure on families to carry in contraband and others may settle scores by targeting families on the bus.”

Fr O’Riordan said the number of prison places for women would increase from 95 (85 in Dochas Centre and 10 in Limerick Prison) to 210 (170 in Thornton and 40 in Kilworth Prison in Cork).

The guest speaker at the seminar, Jean Corston, who was commissioned by the British government to examine women in prison in England and Wales, expressed her dismay at the doubling of prison places for women here.

“My essential message is that I would be very sad to see the Irish Government implementing the kind of policy which has failed in the UK and which we are now trying to unscramble,” she said.

She said community sanctions should become the norm for most women offenders, saying imprisonment should be used only for serious or violent offenders. She recommended existing women’s prisons should be replaced by small custodial centres.

Senator Ivana Bacik, Reid Professor of Criminal Law, Criminology and Penology at Trinity College Dublin, told the seminar that this approach should be adopted in Ireland.


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