Quinn's jail privileges show touch of class
Even in Mountjoy Prison, Seán Quinn jnr enjoys treatment denied those from the wrong class
LAST FRIDAY, Seán Quinn jnr was sent to Mountjoy Prison for three months for “outrageous” contempt of court in hiding nearly half a billion euro that belongs to the Irish people. But he’s not in Mountjoy. He spent one night in that nasty place. On Saturday, he was transferred to a very different institution on the same campus, the Training Unit, where, we are told, he is to serve all of the rest of his sentence. This decision, according to reports, was taken by “prison authorities”.
To most people, this is a minor detail. To a prisoner, it makes all the difference in the world. The short distance between Mountjoy and the Training Unit is a vast gulf in hope, dignity and self-respect. Mountjoy is a kip. The Training Unit is a decent enough place to be. Quinn being sent there means two things. One is that he remains an extremely privileged man. The other is that some other criminal, almost certainly one who has done less harm to Irish society, will pay for Seán Quinn’s privileges.
The thing to grasp about the Training Unit – demanding a leap of imagination by those of us on the outside – is there’s a really long waiting list to get into it. Once you pass into the parallel universe of incarceration, this is where you want to be. The unit is “one of the best prisons, if not the best, in the country” – according to inmates themselves, interviewed by the prisons inspectorate. Unlike Mountjoy, it is not infested with cockroaches and has not been officially deemed unfit for habitation. No one has to “slop out”.
According to the prisons inspector: “A person, familiar with the Prison Service, on being shown around the Training Unit, would assume from looking in the doors that this was an extremely clean and tidy technical college, with excellent IT facilities and with slightly older students! Indeed the atmosphere is precisely what you would expect in a college. Good-humoured banter, not loud and shouted conversations, as elsewhere within the system.”
The Training Unit has single bedrooms rather than cells. There are no steel bars on the windows. Prisoners have their own keys to their rooms and are free to move around the building. They’re also free to lock themselves into their rooms, giving them the immense privilege of privacy. There is a good library. The unit is drug-free. Medical care is far better than in the general system and levels of violence between prisoners are very low.