Wednesday 13 December 2017

How to break the hopeless cycle and unlock potential

Emer O'Kelly proposes a solution to the drug abuse, overcrowding, helplessness and violence in our prisons

In 1850, the shiny new Mountjoy Prison in Dublin was a model for a forward-looking penal system. In keeping with the thinking of the times, its modernity and facilities were not aimed at making life easier for the prisoners, but for ease of running the system.

Convicts, in Victorian thinking, were members of "the criminal class", rather less than human, certainly born with a predisposition to criminal behaviour. And the only way to rehabilitate them (or "reform" them, in the parlance of the day) was to make sure that they suffered as horribly as possible as punishment for their crimes. The main purpose of a prison yard was to provide an area for hard labour, mostly rock-breaking. For hours upon end. It doubled for a few short minutes as an exercise space.

But at least there was no overcrowding, and there were no drugs.

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