€1m revenue at tuck shop with captive audience

Justice Minister Alan Shatter has confirmed that the tuck shop at Mountjoy prison is a €1m a year business.

Murderers and some of the country’s most feared criminals are among the shop’s customers — making it a business like no other.

The tuck shop operates a monopoly on the trade of cigarettes, newspapers, sweets, and crisps for the 540-strong prison population and figures show that it is immune to the recession aff-ecting so many other businesses.

The shop’s finances, which would be the envy of retailers across the country, show that last year’s profits increased by 17% from €106,375 to €124,682.

This followed revenues dipping by 7% from €1.315m to €1.225m in the 12 months to the end of December last.

The over-crowding at Mountjoy during the period would have contributed to the €1m-plus revenues enjoyed.

A spokesman for the Prison Service said yesterday that a tuck shop provides “a vital role in the operation of a prison providing prisoners with the only means to obtain goods such as toiletries, cigarettes, tea bags, biscuits, and other items”.

Prisoners at Mountjoy and across the Irish prison system receive weekly gratuities from the Prison Service ranging from €6.65 to €15.40 while they can also receive money from relatives to spend at the tuck shop.

The Prison Service spokesman said that no money exchanges hands between the prison officer manning the hatch at the shop at Mountjoy and prisoners, with all the transactions completed on account.

He said: “It couldn’t be done any other way.”

The spokesman said that tuck shop privileges are valued by prisoners and can be withdrawn by prison authorities if there is a breach of discipline.

In his written Dáil reply to Sinn Féin justice spokesman Padraig MacLachlainn, Mr Shatter confirmed that profits generated from prisoner purchases in the tuck shop “are used to support prisoners through the Prisoner Assist Programme Fund”.

Mr Shatter explained: “At the end of each month, gross profits are transferred to the Prisoner Assist Programme Fund to facilitate hardship payments to prisoners.

“In addition, initiatives such as the Red Cross Programme and the Community Return Programme are also part-funded from the profits.”

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