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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A test of our humanity is how we treat prisoners and on that we've failed

A test of our humanity is how we treat prisoners and on that we've failed

By Gerry O'Carroll

Wednesday February 16 2011

"Stabbings, slashings and assaults... high rates of inter-prisoner violence... availability of drugs... existence of feuding gangs."

Are we talking about life in some crime-infested ghetto of Mexico City?

No, these words are from a report of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and are used to describe Mountjoy Prison.

The shocking and hard-hitting report presents a damning indictment of the appalling culture of everyday drug violence and assaults in our country's largest jail.

It doesn't pull any punches. It states that conditions were discovered in the prison that were unsafe, inhumane and degrading for staff and prisoners.

Violent attacks with weapons were an almost daily occurrence, it is stated.

A test of our humanity is how we run our prisons and treat inmates. On that we've failed.

The question must be asked -- how the Dept of Justice allowed this prison to deteriorate to such an extent?

But sadly there is nothing new in this report.

Over the past 10 years, prison inspectors here have filed report after report on the deplorable conditions in Mountjoy, the slopping out, the chronic overcrowding, the use of drugs, prisoner-on-prisoner attacks, as well as those on staff.

All these reports have fallen on the deaf ears of officialdom. In the recent past, I have highlighted the dire conditions and the ever increasing deteriorating state of Mountjoy, which is effectively a powder keg ready to explode at any moment.


In truth, this jail is a shame on all of us, as a society. It is a shambles, an out of control, dysfunctional institution, grossly overcrowded where the law of the jungle holds sway.

For outsiders it appears a terrifying and nightmare world, and I have no doubt it is the same for prisoner and prison officer alike, who live under the constant threat of unprovoked attack with deadly weapons.

The Herald publicised the latest attack in the prison, a brutal slashing of a man across the face in his cell on the A wing. But attacks like this happen with such regularity that they often go unreported.

The latest attack took place with an improvised blade, but actually knives have been smuggled into the prison in the past.

Last October, the same wing of the prison was the scene of a riot, staged by 70 inmates in response to a crackdown on drug smuggling into the prison.

In a court case this month, prisoner Declan O'Reilly admitted stabbing a fellow prisoner to death on a landing in the jail. He did so because he was so afraid of Derek Glennon, the gang member he knifed.

We also had the awful killing of inmate Gary Douche, who was subjected to a depraved attack in a crammed basement holding cell at the jail in 2006.

Many of the institutions in this State are dysfunctional -- our hospitals, our banks, our Government itself.

But no one wants to talk about prisons, few politicians have any desire to cross the Liffey and visit Mountjoy.

There are no votes on A wing, so we instead opt to try to keep the lid on the pressure cooker there.

Mountjoy is a powder keg, ready to explode. It's not if, it's when. And we don't need another report to tell us this.

And when it goes there will be tragedy and, inevitably, loss of life. Mark my words, there's a major tragedy waiting to happen.

Related content:

MEPs demand improved conditions for prisoners

1 comment:

Megegg said...

Not only failed but have stirred a storm of hatred from our own MP's, until they have an interest ie votes to chase, will it ever change?