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Thursday, January 19, 2017

A Tale Of Two Prisons

There is a prison called Mounjoy where inmates have no bars on their windows, have keys to their own rooms and can lock themselves in when they like. Breakfast is served in the morning and education classes start at 9am. There are classes offering the skills for fabrics, woodwork, computers and various other trades. Aside from good standard breakfast fare, there is a varied menu for dinner. On Sunday there are specials like roast chicken and vegetables, with a dessert of fruit and ice cream. After evening tea, there is access to a library, a recreation hall, table tennis and a gym. Bedtime rolls around at 9. 30pm. You can also write as many letters as you like and phone your solicitor as much as you want. Two visits a week are allowed and one personal phone call. There is also a counsellor at hand should you find the system too demanding. There is no common violence against residents by staff.  To reside in Mounty prison, you must have committed at least one crime, be an adult and your religion does not matter. 

One resident who had resided in this facility had already beaten an 81-year-old pensioner to death for the princely sum of €45 back in the year 2000. It seems the facilities may not have been up to his standard either for he decided to escape and did.


There was another prison in Galway called St. Josephs Industrial and Reformatory Institution where inmates had bars on their windows, and were warehoused in dormitories on lockdown every night by 9pm. Porridge was served every morning, and ‘special education’ started at 9am which was little or no education at all. There was no woodwork or other classes only religious ones; there was no library or gym. Sunday was as special as Monday and what barely edible food you could not hold down was fed to the obese pigs grunting expectantly nearby. If found to be wanting in your behaviour, you could be locked in a cell for twenty four hours on water and  gruel and beaten (you were going to get beaten one way or the other anyway). You could write letters but these were opened by the wardens dressed up as Christian Brothers, whether they were going out or coming in. There were no phone calls allowed, visits from family were rare and at the discretion of the head warden; common violence was used against the residents by the wardens only and was seen as ordinary. To reside there, you must have been a child not less than 6 years old and not older than sixteen years old, have committed no crime and must be a Catholic only. All of these terms and conditions came from just their and the Government's official rule book.  

Mountjoy Prison in Dublin is still open for business today and for the foreseeable future, where St Josephs Industrial Industrial for children, where I  resided for ten years, is not, and consigned mercifully to the past.  The last one of its kind closed in 1997. 

Barry Clifford