Prisoners Ditch Books to Spend Hours Watching TV; Almost [Euro]2m Spent on Supplying TVs - as Well as Access to Premium Channels - to Those Serving Time

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), April 29, 2018 | Go to article overview

Prisoners Ditch Books to Spend Hours Watching TV; Almost [Euro]2m Spent on Supplying TVs - as Well as Access to Premium Channels - to Those Serving Time


Byline: Anne Sheridan

By Anne Sheridan OVER [euro]1.8m has been spent on more than 7,000 TVs for prisoners and access to premium channels over the past six years, figures obtained by the Irish Mail on Sunday reveal.

The Irish Prison Service has confirmed that the cost of allowing prisoners of good behaviour watch Sky Sports and other premium channels has amounted to [euro]480,639 in the same period.

Last year [euro]232,545 was spent purchasing 1,254 TVs for ten prisons, and since 'It's absurd to be splashing out' 2012, a total of [euro]1,366,758 has been spent buying 7,809 TVs for prisons nationwide.

It comes as the Justice Minister outlined that in one week in February, just 42.8% of the prisoner population participated in education activities. In 2006, that figure was 54%.

The highest spend on TVs last year was in Wheatfield prison where 200 sets were bought for [euro]36,801. Over the six-year period, the Midlands prison has spent the highest sum - [euro]368,241 - on buying 2,086 TVs, an average of 347 TVs a year, for a prison population of 803.

Fianna Fail TD Niall Collins told the MoS that he believes 'the public will find it incredible to see the expenditure on televisions and premium channels for people who are supposed to be serving time for crimes.

'I struggle to see how paying for premium channels rehabilitates offenders. It will certainly feed into the perception that life in prison isn't hard time served,' said Mr Collins.

Last year the prison service spent [euro]80,810 on premium channels, down from its highest spend of [euro]85,898 in 2015 and up from [euro]70,108 in 2012.

The prison service this weekend said it could not confirm whether premium channels are available in some cells for certain prisoners. Earlier, officials said access to premium channels was only available for wellbehaved prisoners on 'enhanced landings' via communal TVs in recreation areas.

A spokesman for the prison service told the MoS that the high turnover of TVs - generally 16in or 22in - is due to a number of reasons, 'from normal wear and tear, to broken or damaged items'. But the spokesman confirmed that prisoners are disciplined for breaking or damaging TVs - which are provided in all prisoners' cells.

Sanctions include reprimands and the loss of privileges, the spokesman said.

No restrictions on the length of time TV can be watched in cells is imposed by the prison service, and the majority of prisoners are locked in their cells for up to 16 hours a day.

Figures provided by the prison service for April show that 514 prisoners across the system were on 'restricted regimes' or locked up from 19 to 23 hours in a cell, primarily for their own protection or the protection of other inmates.

Four prisoners were locked up for 23 hours a day, eight for 22 hours, 325 for 21 hours, 34 for 20 hours and 143 for 19 hours. …

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