Prisoners got €500,000 in loans over past three years, figures show

Money given to inmates for everything from Communion expenses to Playstations to dogs

At Mountjoy Prison in Dublin  prisoners borrowed a total of €88,003 over three years.  Photograph: Cyril Byrne

At Mountjoy Prison in Dublin prisoners borrowed a total of €88,003 over three years. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Inmates have been given €500,000 in interest-free loans by the Irish Prison Service in three years for items including Communion expenses and a dog.

The loans were provided for a wide variety of purposes, including the purchase of discretionary items such as games consoles and stereos, as well as helping to cover the cost of Communions and Confirmations.

One female prisoner at the Dóchas Centre in Dublin used a €300 loan to buy a dog last year, while another inmate at Limerick Prison had to borrow €290 to pay back money they owed to the tuck shop.

The interest-free loans are repaid by deducting an amount from the prisoner’s pocket money each week.

Inmates receive an allowance of up to €2.20 per day, which is usually spent on items available from the prison tuck shop or on services such as television rental. The Irish Prison Service has said that all loans are repaid “in general”, although inmates can walk away from the debt if they get released earlier than planned.

Repayment plans

“The criteria for providing loans to a prisoner are determined by each governor. Loans are given to prisoners for numerous reasons. For example, Confirmations, Communions, family birthdays, for issue to family members, to purchase radios, Playstations, toiletries, etc.” the prison service spokesperson said.

“Repayment plans are put in place based on a number of criteria – such as release dates, available cash balances – to ensure they are repaid prior to release. In general, all loans are repaid unless a prisoner is released earlier.”

Records released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that a total of €498,708 was given to convicted criminals by the IPS in interest-free loans during the past three years.

Midlands Prison in Portlaoise, which houses killers Graham Dwyer, Mark Nash and Gerald Barry, provided €139,880 in loans to its prisoners during that period – more than any other jail.

The next-biggest lender was Mountjoy Prison in Dublin, where prisoners borrowed a total of €88,003 over three years.

The Dóchas Centre on the Mountjoy campus, where female offenders are detained, provided a total of €30,366 in loans to its inmates.

Christmas loan

A short list of examples in respect of loans that were approved last year was provided by the IPS. These included a €300 “Christmas loan” for a prisoner in Mountjoy, €300 for an Xbox at Limerick Prison, €300 for a stereo at Midlands Prison, and €300 for a dog at the Dóchas Centre.

“When a loan is given to a prisoner, a direct debit is set up to automatically debit the prisoner’s account each Sunday night with the amount. The repayment amount is determined by the value of the loan, the regime the prisoner is on, and the expected release date of the prisoner,” said the spokesperson.