No free wi-fi in prisons as plan scrapped

Mark O'Regan

CONTROVERSIAL plans to provide free wi-fi for prisoners in their cells have been scrapped because of technical problems, the Herald has learned.

Last July, the Irish Prison Service carried out a feasibility study to see if wireless could be introduced in a controlled and secure manner.

Leading experts were contacted to investigate the alternatives to wire cabling.

However, the idea has been permanently shelved because of difficulties getting a strong enough signal to every cell.

A spokesman said that the proposal was "done", but added they would look to install wired instead of wi-fi internet.

"We're finished with wi-fi idea because of the structures of our prisons," he said.

"Wi-fi was to allow (the prisoners) to watch TV that way, book their visits, make their tuck shop orders and do interactive e-learning.

"It wasn't a security or lockdown issue, it was simply a physical signal issue."

"It's still our intention to follow up on how we would go about it through cabling.


"But there is nothing planned in the short-term. Cabling is complicated and difficult in a live prison setting."

Many of the country's prisons are very old and have thick walls, making them difficult to adapt for modern times.

Mountjoy, for example, which has the largest prison population in the State, was built more than 150 years ago.

The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT), which campaigns for improved conditions and educational opportunities for prisoners, said the majority of inmates should have controlled access to the internet.

This, it argued, would make them better equipped to seek work and education opportunities upon their release.

Liam Herrick, director of the IPRT, said that internet access posed a security issue, but added that "there was a positive to providing access to technological information".

"We think it's positive that they're trying to provide better access to educational facilities in prisons," he added.

"We're conscious there are security issues involved in things like this, and that they have to take precedence."