Tuck shops in prisons generate profits of €700,000
Bumper sales of Tayto cheese and onion crisps, bottles of Coca Cola, cigarettes and Jelly Tots helped profits at the prison service's network of tuck shops jump to €700,000 last year.
Figures released by the Irish Prison Service (IPS) in response to a Freedom of Information request show that at one tuck shop, in the Midlands Prison, revenues topped €1.19m.
Prison tuck shops sell cigarettes, soft drinks, newspapers, sweets and crisps. Figures show that sales last year totalled €6m across the shops at 13 prisons.
Despite this being down on the €6.36m generated in sales in 2013, the shops increased their gross profits by 5pc, from €667,673 to €699,315.
A sample price list for a tuck shop, provided by the Irish Prison Service, shows 20 Silk Cut Purple cost €10, compared to €10.50 in a local convenience store, while a Wispa chocolate bar is 99c, compared to the €1.09 that is charged in many shops outside jails.
Tayto cheese and onion crisps cost 74c in jail, compared to prices of 79c in local shops.
The tuck shop to generate the largest profit was at Wheatfield Prison, with €114,998 recorded. It sold €699,151 worth of goods.
In the Midlands Prison, €1.19m in sales was recorded, making it the busiest shop.
The second-busiest was at Mountjoy, where there were sales of €816,973 but only a €29,607 profit.
Three more tuck shops recorded revenues of between €500,000 and €1m: Castlerea (€541,503), Cloverhill (€678,190) and Wheatfield (€699,151).
Meanwhile, four recorded profits in excess of €100,000: Wheatfield; Midlands; Limerick and Castlerea.
The lowest-level profit was at Loughan House, where the shop made €8,241 on sales of €116,177.
Tuck-shop revenues are funded partly from the weekly gratuity that prisoners receive from the Prison Service and which ranges from €6.65 to €15.40.
Inmates can also receive money from relatives. No money exchanges hands between the prison officers manning the hatch at the tuck shops, as all transactions with prisoners are done on account.
Tuck-shop privileges are valued by prisoners and can be withdrawn if there is a breach of discipline.
The profits generated from prisoner purchases are used to support prisoners through the Prisoner Assist Programme Fund, which facilitates hardship payments to prisoners and part-funds the Red Cross Programme and Community Return Programme.