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Over half of inmates earn full ‘pocket money’ reward for good behaviour

2nd January 2022

More than half of prisoners receive the maximum pocket money in jail as a reward for good behaviour.

Ten years ago, the Irish Prison Service (IPS) announced a plan in which inmates would have to earn their weekly cash allowance. Previously, prisoners received a daily allowance of €2.35, meaning the State was paying prisoners pocket money of €16.45 per week.

But in 2012, the Prison Service decided that inmates should not have an automatic entitlement to receive the same level of pocket money. Instead, they should earn it by proving they wanted to rehabilitate themselves.

There are currently three levels of pocket money available across Irish jails. The lowest, or “basic”, is 95 cent a day, which inmates with little engagement in work, rehabilitation or education behind bars receive.

Those on the “standard” level are paid €1.70 a day, while those prisoners deemed to be exemplary can earn €2.20 a day for model behaviour on the “enhanced” level.

Figures released to the Sunday Independent from the IPS show that 52pc of the prison population, or 1,978 inmates, are on the “enhanced” level, while 42pc, 1,567 prisoners, are on the “standard” level.

Meanwhile, just 6pc of inmates are on “basic” pocket money, which translates to just 217 criminals.

In addition, prisoners can earn extra cash under a work scheme.

A spokesman for the IPS said: “The daily amount of the approved work gratuity is fixed for all prisons/institutions at 50 cent per session, with a maximum of €3.50 per week for work training activities, such as work in kitchens, laundry, industrial cleaning, grounds maintenance, industrial waste management, painting and stores.”

The majority of inmates hold down some form of job in jail, from horticulture, to kitchens and workshops as well as other activities.

Wife-killer Joe O’Reilly previously worked as a cleaner at the Midlands Prison, but has since been moved to Wheatfield, while fellow killer Malcolm MacArthur worked in the kitchens at Shelton Abbey open prison before his release.

Murderer Graham Dwyer had sought to work in the kitchen at the Midlands jail, but female prison staff objected because of evidence at his trial which highlighted his obsession with knives and stabbing women.

It emerged in January two years ago that prisoners in Irish jails were paid an estimated €3m in pocket money in 2019, according to the latest figures.

According to details released under the Freedom of Information Act, inmates across Irish prisons were given €2.5m overall in the first 10 months of 2019.

The report also revealed that prisoners received a further €4.5m in gifts from family and friends in that time.

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