Rehabilitation in Irish Prisons: Are we for Real? Working Notes, October 2006

Issue 53 of Working Notes is available here for download. This issue's articles include:

Boys inside St. PatsRehabilitation-Are we for Real?
by Peter McVerry

If money were scarce, and one had to prioritise where to invest in rehabilitative facilities within prison, where would you invest it? I suggest that the greatest return is likely to be found amongst the younger prison population who are still at a very decisive developmental period in their lives, namely the 16 -21 age group. Hence for evidence of any sort of political commitment to rehabilitation within prison, one might expect to look at the detention centres and services for young offenders.

Alternatives to Custody in Ireland
by Dr. Mairead Seymour

Ireland has seen a sharp increase in its prison population and a corresponding expansion of the prison estate over the last decade despite a reduction in the levels of recorded crime. Indeed, since 1995 the prison population rate has grown from 57 per 100,000 of national population to 78 per 100,000 of national population in 2006i. It has been suggested that the politicisation of the crime issue since the mid-nineties fuelled by extensive media coverage of high profile crime cases are key factors in the growthii. The prosperous economic conditions arising from the era of the Celtic Tiger are also identified as enabling a prison expansionist policy to become a realityiii. Despite numerous calls for a re-orientation of the system towards using custody as a last resortiv little change has occurred in almost 100 years (Probation of Offenders Act 1907) with the exception of the Criminal Justice (Community Service) Act 1983 and the Children Act 2001.

An Awards Ceremony for Criminals
by Tony O'Riordan SJ

Imagine if we introduced an annual award ceremony for Ireland’s most successful criminals. Who might be present at such a gala event and who would be likely to receive nominations and awards?

It is unlikely that such an event will ever happen but the very suggestion might help us think about some of the problems with our contemporary images and assumptions about crime, anti-social behaviour and fairness in Irish society.

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Mental Illness in Irish Prisons - Issue (52) Working Notes

The current issue of Working Notes (Issue 52) is now available online. You can read all of the articles here.

Editorial by Eugene Quinn

Mental Illness in Irish Prisons: A Right to the Best Available Health Care? by
Eugene Quinn
The In June 2004, the Irish Prison Service published a statement of Health Care Standards, covering the care of those detained in Irish prisons and places of detention. The core aims of the Standards are stated as being: "to provide prisoners with access to the same quality and range of instruments to which they would be eligible within the general community" and to give priority to the promotion of the health of prisoners

Still Waiting for Housing by Peter McVerry SJ
Continuing increases in overall housing output and growth of both social and affordable housing provision are having positive impacts on waiting lists. 2004 was the tenth successive year for record house completions - with 76,950 units completed - demonstrating that the government measures introduced in recent years have been successful in boosting the supply of housing to meet the unprecedented demand. House completions in Ireland are at the highest level in Europe in relation to population - around 19 units per 1,000 population.

Doing Business and Doing Good: The Role of Business Ethics
by Séamus Murphy SJ
Down the ages, some currents of thought have seen business as incapable of being honourable, and barely able to be honest, since honest business will always be at a disadvantage in competition with dishonest business. On this view, neither business, banking, investment, profit-making, nor entrepreneurial initiative promote the good of individuals or society. Business ethics is doomed to be at best ineffectual, at worst a sham.

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Press Release 25 October

A Disaster, and An Obscenity,
St Patrick’s Institution for Young Offenders has today been labeled “a disaster, and an obscenity, revealing the moral bankruptcy of the policies of the Minister for Justice.”


These hard-hitting comments by Fr Peter McVerry are contained in a study entitled Rehabilitation in Irish Prisons- Are We for Real? published today by the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice. The study was launched in Dublin today by Judge Dermot Kinlen, the Inspector of Prisons.   


Commitment to Rehabilitation has regressed

“Rehabilitation in Irish prisons has regressed in the twenty-one years since the Whitaker Report on the penal system was published in 1985”, according to Fr McVerry, who contributed to the study.


Fr McVerry, who was a member of the of the Whitaker Committee, cited the closure of workshops and training facilities in 2003 and the cessation of literacy programmes at the youth prison as evidence of the decline in political commitment to rehabilitation throughout the prison system.


“Most young men in St. Patrick's spend 19 hours each day alone in their cells and the other five hours mindlessly walking up and down a dreary, depressing yard with nothing to do except to scheme (with enormous ingenuity, it must be said) how to get drugs into the place to kill the boredom” Fr McVerry added.


Call for greater scrutiny of replacement prison

Noting that the Government is committed to building a replacement youth prison, the Director of the Jesuit Centre, Fr Tony O’Riordan SJ called for “more scrutiny of the location, design and size of the replacement” for St Patrick’s Institution. “The problem has always been broader than the physical conditions in St Patrick's” he said


He added that “Rehabilitation must be a foundational concern in any prison-building programme. More important than any regeneration of prison buildings is a commitment to regeneration of the young people we send to prison.”


He pointed out that the Minister for Justice now has a great opportunity to exercise leadership. He called on the Minister to ring-fence the €25million annual savings arising from new working arrangements for Prison Officers and to use this money to develop alternatives to custody in targeted areas, targeted programmes in prisons and a strategy to ensure rehabilitation begun in prison continues after release. “In the absence of such investment, prison will remain little more than an interruption in an offender's criminal behaviour” he concluded.


In the absence of political commitment to rehabilitation he concluded by saying that Thornton Hall risks becoming ‘a social landfill-site’ for an increasingly uncaring Government. 



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November2004 Issue

The online version of the November 2004 issue of is now available. Contents include:

Editorial by Eugene Quinn

Morris Tribunal Report and the Garda Siochana Bill 2004 by Peter McVerry SJ

The Morris Tribunal's Report into corruption involving some Gardai in Donegal (1) has major implications for the Garda Síochána generally. The Report calls for radical reform of the structures within the Gardai, structures which have remained essentially unchanged since the foundation of the State and which are clearly in need of reform. This is an opportunity which must not be missed. Someone will be watching you!

Including Older People in Irish Societyby Paul Murray

Health Issues, poverty, and social inclusion...

Connecting Debt and Trade from a Development Perspective by Peter Henriot SJ.
It is now widely accepted that economic models that are not people-centred have led us to the current global crisis of deepening poverty, degradation of rights, destruction of the environment and increased danger of conflict and terrorism.

Getting to Grips with Ireland's Alcohol Problems by Margaret Burns

Recent months have seen the publication of two important reports on alcohol in Irish society - the Report on Alcohol Misuse by Young People, issued by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children in June 2004, and the Second Report of the Strategic Task Force on Alcohol, which was published in September. (1) These documents provide a wealth of information and analysis on the topic of alcohol in Ireland today and put forward a range of recommendations. They merit serious consideration by all concerned about health and social well-being in the newly-prosperous Ireland.

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Issue 47: December 2003

Budget 2004:Preserving a Divided Society
Budget Coverage


Budget 2004: Small Change for the Poor Robin Hanan

Economics and Justice Eithne Fitzgerald

Integrating Perspectives on Christmas Nadette Foley, Zhyan Sharif, Egide Dhala

So this is Christmas...? Cathy Molloy

Working Notes is sent to TD's, Government Departments, Educationalists, Community and Church Personnel, the Media and many other interested individuals, as well as published in full on this web site. We would be most interested to hear from readers with comments on articles, suggestions for topics, and articles for publication. Obviously we cannot guarantee publication of unsolicited articles.

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