Figures released by the Irish Prison Service in response to a Freedom of Information request show at one tuck shop alone — at the Midlands prison — revenues topped the €1.19m mark.
Tuck shops operate a monopoly on the trade of cigarettes, soft drinks, newspapers, sweets, and crisps in prisons.
New figures show that across the outlets at 13 prisons, revenues last year totalled €6m — down on the €6.36m generated in 2013.
The figures show in spite of the €300,000 drop in revenues, the network of shops increased their gross profits by 5%, from €667,673 to €699,315.
The shops were able to generate the healthy revenues in spite of the cut-price items available to prisoners.
A sample price list for a tuck shop provided by the Irish Prison Service shows that 20 Silk Cut Purple cost €10 while shoppers at a local convenience store will pay €10.50 for the same item.
Wispa chocolate bars are priced 99c compared to the €1.09 price charged outside jails. Tayto Cheese & Onion crisps cost 74c, compared to a retail price of 79c.
The tuck shop to generate the largest profit last year was the one at Wheatfield prison, where gross profits of €114,998 were recorded.
This was in spite of recording revenues of €699,151, significantly down on the revenues recorded at the Midlands prison.
The second busiest shop in the network last year was Mountjoy with revenues of €816,973, although the profit was relatively low at €29,607.
Four tuck shops including Wheatfield recorded profits in excess of €100,000 last year — the others were located at the Midlands (€104,738), Limerick (€103,419), and Castlerea (€107,206).
Along with Mountjoy, three more shops recorded revenues between €500,000 and €1m. They were Castlerea (€541,503), Cloverhill (€678,190), and Wheatfield (€699,151).
The tuck shop to record the lowest profit was Loughan House in Co Cavan where profits of €8,241 were recorded on revenues of €116,177.
Tuck shop revenues are funded partly from the weekly gratuity that prisoners received from the Prison Service ranging from €6.65 to €15.40, while prisoners can also receive money from relatives to spend at the tuck shops.
No money exchanges hands between the prison officers manning the hatch at the tuck shops, with all transactions with prisoners done on account.
Tuck shop privileges are valued by prisoners and can be withdrawn by prison authorities if there is a breach of discipline.
The profits generated are used to support prisoners through the Prisoner Assist Programme Fund.
The fund facilitates hardship payments to prisoners while in addition, initiatives such as the Red Cross Programme and the Community Return Programme are also part-funded from the profits.
- Arbour Hill: €195,087, (€25,221 gross profit);
- Cork: €354,742, (€67,592 gross profit);
- Portlaoise: €493,281, (€10,392 gross profit);
- Shelton Abbey: €96,158, (€10,988 gross profit);
- St Pat’s: €250,693, (€45,934 gross profit).