The State’s prison watchdog was refused entry to a jail by an officer who appeared to be drunk, it has emerged. The staff member had a “strong smell of alcohol” and had difficulty reading her ID badge, states the inspector’s annual report.
The Inspector of Prisons, Patricia Gilheaney, initiated “familiarisation visits” of prisons after being appointed in May 2018. Her 2019 annual report notes the “professionalism and dedication” of staff during her visits.
But it states: “Unfortunately, this was not universal. It was disappointing on one of the early visits, to come across an officer who refused the Inspector entry into a prison.
The report says that prison management was “immediately verbally notified” and a report submitted. The Irish Prison Service said: “This incident was addressed internally by prison management under the prison officer code of discipline and the appropriate action taken.”
In a foreword, Ms Gilheaney says while regular prison inspections are a statutory requirement, only one inspection report had been published since 2014 due to “insufficient human and fiscal resources”.
The report says the “exponential growth” in gangs in the country was amplified in prisons and that the inspector witnessed first-hand the difficulties in separating rival gangs and factions. It says membership or allegiance to the gangs “fluctuate on a continuous basis”.
The report says use of restricted regimes — with some inmates locked up for more than 22 hours a day — was of “particular concern” and that the re-emergence of overcrowding since 2018 was a “significant issue”.
It raises “serious concern” at the drugs and mobile phone trade and says prisoners, their families, and friends can be bullied and intimidated into smuggling.
“Prisoners selling illicit drugs and mobile phones can amass significant wealth whilst in prison and place the prisoner who is buying the contraband in significant debt,” it states.
The report raises further concerns on mental health issues. It says there were 16 deaths in custody over 2018 and a further seven while on temporary release from prison.
Speaking to people who have long left the prison service and also civilians who worked in various prisons, in the offices, will still tell me that the only change in the penal system now is the Gangland and other serious criminals who behind the walls run the prisons with fear and intimidation. The Irish prison service which is overlooked by the Department of Justice may claim that they and the Governors run the prisons is actually and completely a Nonsense. Paddy McFadden who is now in his nineties worked in Sligo jail back in the mid 1950’s and later became Governor of Mountjoy prison, before retiring in 1983, and then along came the Bluffer Lonergan. The culture at that time at Mountjoy was a wet lunch at the local which is up the North Circular Road – mainly it was the Hut bar. Some prison staff would knock down 4-6 pints in one hour and then return to work. At that time, the shift was 8 to 8 ie 12 hours, 7 days a week, and it was compulsory. Yes, some of the warders made big money but the social cost was very high. There was alcohol abuse, prescription drugs abuse, depression, failed marriages and the rest. Lonergan was known as The God. His sidekick in the Department of Justice was Aine O’Gorman. I believe she is still there and they should do an audit on how many people herself and Lonergan got sacked or granted early retirement to, for all the wrong reasons. Night duty was literally a nightmare. Staff would come in – no checks, with their half bottle of whiskey and some would sleep for three hours while on duty and their friends would cover for them. So much for discipline. Looking at the above headlines and what Ms Gilheaney, Inspector of Prisons, witnessed is no shock at all. The alcohol abuse according to good sources has actually got worse among prison staff and domestic violence, in their home lives, is well covered up too.
Cork as I said before was run for years by Rogue Screws. I could name them but this is for another day. Prisoners in Cork were treated like rats and these Rogue Screws, most of whom now, have left with their pensions but Donnie and others were evil to say the least. Some young Dublin lads would tell me that the Rogues would go around at night time urging the prisoners to put the bed sheets up and literally hang themselves. That is how toxic Cork prison is and I hope it has changed dramatically since those awful days. The problem still with our prisons is that young men are released after completing a sentence and they have nowhere to go so naturally they are going to back either on drugs, or back to their criminal ways. After decades of failing these young men there is still not backup or support to help them get housing, a job, medical attention and the rest. I will close by saying I will write further on this subject in due course, but one comment I want to make is that Lonergan is not the Mr Wonderful that RTE portray him to be. In my opinion, he is one of the most vindictive people that some prisoners have ever encountered in their entire lives. Some sources tell me when he left, they had a second party. The staff were so relieved that he was gone and he was gone forever. Fred