Reaction to St Patrick's report surprising for its mock shock
OPINION: Great damage has been done to the reputation of the Irish prison system
THE REPORT of an inspection of St Patrick’s Institution is not shocking and any person or organisation claiming to be outraged by it is simply in a state of mock shock.
At a recent talk hosted by the Association of Criminal Justice Research and Development the new head of the prison service, Michael Donnellan, said that the Irish prison system was more or less a hopeless case, “systemless”, pointless and effective only in locking people up. His portrait was honest and bleak. He did cite stories of personal good and triumph, but this was despite the no-system system.
The only hope for those that find themselves in Irish jails/institutions within the 26 counties is Donnellan, who said he was deeply committed to breaking the cycle and bettering the lot of the prisoners and the jail conditions through joined-up actions and multi-agency involvement. Prison and prisoners, he went on to say, are an issue for society; prisoners are our people, our brothers and sisters, our friends, our flesh and blood and fellow human beings.
I believe Donnellan will do a good job and will have a positive impact upon the dreadful darkness that emanates from our prison regimes, but this is no time for praise of good deeds, of change and rehabilitation.
Judge Michael Reilly’s report into St Patrick’s finds a culture of inhumanity and hostility to the human rights of some of the child and young adult prisoners held there. The essence of a civilised society, the paramount respect for human life which we are trying to reflect to those who fall out of society and into imprisonment is being trampled upon in St Patricks.
Reading through the report there is a continuity of wrongfulness and disregard for people. What we have here is criminal behaviour, a culture of punishment overseen by a gang of brutalisers run riot. Had it not been for the determination of the honourable Judge Reilly, the rights of those unfortunate enough to be incarcerated in St Patrick’s would continue to be ignored and violated. Nonetheless, this report is still a continuation of the many other reports on what happened to generations of people that this Republic locked away and locked up.
Next month Irish citizens will go to the polls to vote on enshrining the rights of children in our Constitution. But little good that will be if we can’t protect them from those that are duty-bound to keep them in good care and good custody.
More and more evidence is accumulating for the case of a failed State and I would suggest a failed society. We falsely pride ourselves on being caring and staunch defenders of freedom and human rights and equality, yet where were the good prison officers, the good prison visiting committee, the good prison governors, the good prison chaplain or the whistleblowers?
The cliche that the vast majority are good and do their duty simply does not fit with the culture and community of terror that has prevailed in St Patrick’s Institution. There is no example of anyone attempting to stop the bullying and intimidation; the reason being that it was acceptable and expected, just as it was in the Daingans, the Letterfracks, Magdalene laundries, Breffni homes and the many residential institutions that operated the length and breadth of this so-called Republic.