Irish Times
28 Apr 2012

THE IRISH Prison Service is to introduce a new gratuity regime to reward inmates for good behaviour while penalising those who are disruptive or refuse to engage with rehabilitative services.

The scheme centres on the €2.35 daily allowance to which all inmates are entitled. The prison authorities are anxious to use that as leverage to make prisoners more compliant and engage more meaningfully with drug treatment, education and other services.

The project is being introduced under reforms by the new director general of the Irish Prison Service, Michael Donnellan.

Under the current system, all prisoners receive a daily allowance to buy supplies while in prison. All are entitled to the gratuity. However, a three-tier system is being introduced under which prisoners can earn more money or lose it.

Every prisoner will be paid a flat rate of €1.70 per day. They can increase that to €2.20 per day if they are compliant and do not break any prison regulations. For those who work with the prison – in cleaning or maintenance duties – another €1 will be paid, bringing their daily allowance to €3.20.

A prisoner’s eligibility to be placed on the enhanced scheme will also be judged on their record in engaging with drug or alcohol treatment programmes and educational services. Foreign prisoners will be offered Skype calls home.

Those who come to the attention of the authorities or do not meaningfully engage with the rehabilitative services will have their allowance cut to 95 cent. They will have very little to buy cigarettes and newspapers, for example.

The prison authorities are also planning to take 15 cent from all prisoners’ allowances towards the cost of the televisions in their cells and the calls they are entitled to make to family or loved ones.

Mr Donnellan told the annual conference of the Prison Officers’ Association that the new scheme would deliver annual savings in the region of €430,000.

“We want to encourage prisoners to join the programmes, the education, the supports, take the drug counselling so we can create a safer society.”

He rejected suggestions by the association that prisoners who broke items such as televisions were not punished and the items were simply replaced. Mr Donnellan said this was because the prison service had to be fair.