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Giving pocket money to our pampered lags is a disgrace

Did you know that the State pays a daily cash allowance to every prisoner in an Irish jail?

I must confess that, until recently, I was not aware of the extent of these payments by the Prison Service to convicted criminals.

But figures emerged this week revealing that the sum of €19m has been paid out to convicts in the State's 14 penal institutions over the past five years.

The daily rate it seems is €1.70 per day per prisoner, but there is an enhanced rate for €2.20 a day for particularly well-behaved lags.

However, the bold boys in the class who misbehave will see their pocket money reduced to 95 cent a day.

I'm sure most ordinary people, struggling to pay mortgages and burdened with the universal social charge, will be shaking there heads in disbelief to read that we reward the perpetrators of crime like this.

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There is an already widespread belief, much of it justified especially among victims of crime, that regimes in our prisons are already far too lax.

The old cliche of prisons like holiday camps is true, many believe.

That impression has certainty been reinforced in recent times. Last week a search of the State's maximum security facility, Portlaoise Prison (below), led to a haul of contraband being discovered in E-wing there, which houses dissident republicans.

The cache included some 37 mobile phones, internet modems and USB keys. This equipment would have enabled these convicted paramilitaries to direct their terror campaign from the safety and anonymity of their prison cells.

It's surely no surprise then, that the recidivist rate in our prisons is among the highest in Europe. The liberal and indulgent regimes now in vogue in our prisons mean that incarceration is no longer seen as a real deterrent or indeed punishment.

After all who'd be scared of someone who hands you pocket money?

If our system of justice is to have any meaning, imprisonment must incorporate meaningful punishment, as well as rehabilitation.

I do not wish to turn the clock back to the barbaric practices of the past. But by the same token it's utterly ridiculous that we are paying out millions of euros a year to effectively reward convicted felons for good behaviour.

They have their three square meals, their TV, their gamesroom and gym. It's time for criminals to give something back to us, not the other way around.


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