Wed, 01 Jan, 2014 – 00:00
They shove the bags out through slits in their cell windows where they get entangled in the wiring on the exterior walls.
On an exclusive tour of the long-condemned prison, John Connolly, the chief officer, tells the Irish Examiner an outside specialist company is hired to remove the bags.
“The big thing here,” he says looking up at the bags, “is, obviously, the lack of in-cell sanitation and overcrowding, having two people to a cell, sometimes three.”
Lifting the lid on the prison — which at its height crammed 330 prisoners into cells fit for 143 — I witnessed the ‘slopping out’ of toilet pots in the morning.
Just after 9am on B1 wing, most of the 31 inmates take turns to carry their pots to the narrow slop out room at the end of the landing.
There is the strange sight of a muscled youth washing out his utensils in a sink, laughing and chatting to another inmate emptying his pot into a toilet beside him.
As one stage, a short queue gathers as four prisoners occupy the two large toilets bowls and sinks.
A serious-looking inmate chats to us outside his cell. “The slopping out is bad, the worst part,” he says. “The smell can be awful. Some guys do a shit in bags and throw it out the window.”
When it is put to him that many people on the outside may not care about their conditions, he says: “We do our punishment already. You wouldn’t do this to a dog.”
Another section of the prison — rarely seen by the public — houses inmates with psychiatric issues and discipline problems. It’s literally in the bowels of the jail and is dark, claustrophobic, and bleak.
In two years, the “debasing and degrading” conditions, as described by international inspectors, that have festered for decades in Cork will be at an end when a new prison is built.
Despite the conditions and physical strictures, the bulk of the jail is spotless and the general atmosphere calm. Staff appear to have good relations with inmates.
Workshops and the school thrive, with many inmates expressing praise for staff and the skills they learn.
To Connolly, who has retired in the last few days after 35 years, it is clear why conditions in the jail have to change: “They are still human beings. We must disassociate from the crime they have committed.”