[Sinn Fein]

22 May 1997

Remand prison - a first step


Sinn Fein Councillor Christy Burke described today's announcement by Minister Nora Owen regarding the new remand prison in Wheatfield as a pre-election publicity stunt.

Councillor Burke said:

``Sinn Fein have consistently argued that remand prisoners should be kept in a seperate institution from convicted prisoners as Mountjoy jail is entirely unsuitable for holding those on remand. It is not enough to merely move remand prisoners, the conditions under which they are held must be entirely changed.

``The suicide rate in Mountjoy jail is 16 times that of the general population with those on remand most at risk. Heroin and other drugs are widely available in Mountjoy and other prisons. Many young prisoners entering the jail with no drug problem leave with a serious hard-drugs habit. The lack of treatment facilities and a rehabilitative approach ensure that the drugs problem festers and grows behind its walls.

``Staff levels in Mountjoy, Cork and Limerick are still weighted heavily in favour of the punitive policies. The ratio of prison officers to prisoners in Mountjoy is almost one to one but the ratio of welfare officers to prisoners is one for every 100, with the ratio for drugs councillors and medical staff even lower. This is something which must be changed.

``It is clear that Mountjoy jail is a fast-track to drug addiction and has contributed to the country's drugs problem this must not be allowed to happen in Wheatfield. ``Sinn Fein welcome the decision regarding remand prisoners. Mountjoy jail is incapable of meeting the prison needs of this society. We agree with Governments own review body, Mountjoy Jail should be immediatly closed as part of a radical overhaul of the entire prison system.

``Government must invest in preventative programmes aimed at removing the causes of crime. Locking more people up in ``get tough'' jail regimes is not by itself a solution. Crime will decrease when there is a co-ordinated response - social and economic, as well as law enforcement - to deal with the many causes of crime.''

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