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African drum beats calming tensions in crowded Cloverhill

African drums are helping prisoners to keep cool heads in a Dublin jail.

Inmates at Cloverhill remand prison in West Dublin, the largest remand institution have "drum therapy" as part of their recreation.

In its annual report the Visiting Committee to the jail reveals that the therapy involves a selection of African drums, and is aimed at helping to "deal with emotions through rhythm."

Cloverhill accommodates more foreign nationals than any other prison and they make up around a third of its population. During 2011 a total of 1,393 foreign nationals were committed there, many of them in relation to immigration issues.

At present four foreign national staff at the jail can speak a number of languages but the Visiting Committee has urged the authorities to specifically recruit or train up serving officers in language skills.

Overcrowding is also an issue and the Committee reiterates the opinion "expressed in every report since 2007" -- that prisoners committed by the Garda National Immigration Bureau should be going to a secure holding centre, not into a prison context.

Core languages spoken by prisoners should be learned and this would have obvious benefits even if only at a basic level of fluency. In addition to drum therapy prisoners can engage in Acupressure classes to help relieve stress and manage minor medical issues like snoring. Arts and Crafts classes include making greeting cards using 3-D effects while they also had a lecture on birds of prey, their care and habits. Books are available in 17 languages including Arabic , Vietnamese and Chinese while foreign language films on DVD can be viewed in the library, using the television or PC. Cloverhill, while supplied with bibles, has problems with chaplaincy -- a service paid for by the Department.