The Irish Prison Service today hit out at a study which accused jails of making no effort to ensure inmates remain in contact with their families.
Spearheaded by well-known social campaigner Sister Stanislaus Kennedy, around 40 families of prisoners were interviewed in the Limerick area.
The findings reveal children suffer bullying and feelings of insecurity and guilt because of having a loved one in jail and that prisons were not doing enough to ensure inmates kept in contact with their children.
While Sr Kennedy said the survey reflected the situation nationally, the Prison Service insisted their facilities were family-friendly.
“As part of its overall strategy in relation to the rehabilitation of prisoners, the Irish Prison Service pursues a service-wide approach aimed at sustaining and maintaining prisoners’ relationships with their families, in as normal a manner as possible,” a spokesman said.
“The Service continues to work in partnership with the Probation Service and other statutory, voluntary and community agencies and services to provide best possible service and supports to prisoners’ families.
“New external family visiting facilities have been provided at a number of prisons.”
It said there were purpose-built facilities for families at many prisons, including a creche at Mountjoy Prison, St. Patrick’s Institution, Cloverhill Prison and the Midlands Prison.
A similar visitors’ centre operates outside Limerick Prison managed by the Bedford Row Family Project.
Bedford’s board of directors’ chairman Jim Sheehan said: “From the project’s beginning, it has found a very positive response from the prison authorities to the varied concerns of family members represented to them through the project.
“The openness of the prison management to the project’s requests to operate a hospitality service for visitors at Limerick was a significant step towards increased family friendliness.
“Over the years, project staff have invariably met with a gracious response to enquiries or special requests made to senior prison management on behalf of families”.