Prisoners: sinned, not sinful |

Published March 11, 2015 by wallacedarwin


In the last four decades the number of prisoners in Ireland grew from 600 to 5,500.

The majority of these people are unemployed, unskilled men, with little or no literacy skills. They are addicted to alcohol and drugs, have mental and physical illnesses. They are an alienated and stigmatised group in our society. What has the State to do with this? According to John Lonergan, a man who worked in the Irish prison system since 1968 and was the chief governor in Mount Joy, Dublin for 23 years, it is down to the failures of the government and our society as a whole that lead to the rise of prison population.

There is, of course, a complex web of factors, contributing to an increase of criminal activity. Northern Ireland conflicts and reforms of psychiatric hospitals in 60s and 70s led, firstly, to an introduction of guns and anti-authority attitudes. Secondly, fewer and fewer people got hospitalised, with little or no support and after-care facilities provided, making it impossible to cope both for mentally ill and local communities. Today 1 in 4 prisoners have a record of mental illness. The introduction of drugs in the late 70s contributed immensely to rise in criminality. It is estimated that 80% off crime committed in the last 10 years was connected to the supply or possession of drugs; or simply robbing to get money for drugs.

The main contributing aspect of growing criminality, however, in the view of John Lenergan, is social inequality.



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