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For a long number of years, I have been an active campaigner for prisoners’ rights and the need for appropriate rehabilitation projects to help reconstruct their lives and those of their families.
Successive governments must acknowledge that issues relating to prisoner management, rehabilitation and release have received entirely inadequate and unsystematic attention.
I am deeply concerned about mentally ill prisoners. As medical experts have advised at health conferences, here and abroad, mental instability is a condition which covers a wide field and no lay person, prison officer or garda is in a position to recognise the variations of it.
A man or a woman could be found wandering through the streets causing a general nuisance and appear to be drunk. To get the culprit out of the way, a charge of vagrancy could find the person ensconced in prison, even for a short time.
That person, according to the medical experts, could be a perfectly innocent victim of some kind of psychiatric disorder and the consequences of even one night in prison could be disastrous. An inquiry into the prison service in Britain included some dire warnings about the consequences of locking up or continuing the incarceration of inmates with psychiatric problems.
The possible effect of any type of prison regime should be studied very carefully as part of the overall questions of rehabilitation. My thanks to prison officers, staff and gardaí for their splendid work, sometimes under very difficult conditions.
Cllr Noel Collins
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