Charlie Flanagan praises ‘progressive’ prison service director

Michael Donnellan retiring after seven years in role, during which service transformed

Michael Donnellan became director-general of the Irish  Prison Service in 2011. ‘He has led a significant culture change in the penal system,’ said Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan.   Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Michael Donnellan became director-general of the Irish Prison Service in 2011. ‘He has led a significant culture change in the penal system,’ said Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has paid tribute to the head of the prison service, Michael Donnellan, who is retiring.

Mr Donnellan became director-general of the Irish Prison Service in 2011 and the service is widely regarded as having transformed under his leadership.

Mountjoy Prison, for example, was refurbished during his time at the helm, and in-cell sanitation was installed, which brought an end to the practice of slopping-out. It had previously been stated that the jail was too old for toilets and showers in cells.

During his time enhanced regimes were offered to prisoners if they demonstrated they could be trusted and if they engaged in the rehabilitative and educational facilities on offer. Those who showed a willingness to engage fully with the services were offered the chance of additional time off their sentences.

Declining committals

Mr Donnellan’s period was marked with declining committals to prison, meaning the overcrowding that had in large part frustrated efforts to reform the prison system did not impact on his tenure in the same way.

Mr Flanagan praised the compassionate and progressive way Mr Donnellan managed the prison service.

“He has led a significant culture change in the penal system as well as delivering infrastructural improvements to the prison environment and championing a joined-up approach to the management of offenders,” Mr Flanagan said.

“Michael has overseen a reduction in the number of prisoners on restricted regime and worked with the Probation Service to deliver important prisoner rehabilitation initiatives.”