Pris­on­ers given €498k in in­ter­est-free loans since 2014

Irish Examiner - - News - Dar­ragh McDon­agh

In­mates have been given €498,708 in in­ter­est-free loans by the Ir­ish Prison Ser­vice in the past three years.

The loans were for a va­ri­ety of pur­poses, in­clud­ing the pur­chase of games con­soles and stereos, and for the cost of com­mu­nions and con­fir­ma­tions.

One fe­male pris­oner at the Dóchas Cen­tre, Dublin, used a €300 loan to buy a dog, last year, while an in­mate at Lim­er­ick Prison bor­rowed €290 to pay back money owed to the tuck shop.

The in­ter­est-free loans are re paid by de­duct­ing an amount from the pris­oner’s pocket money each week. In­mates re­ceive an al­lowance of up to €2.20 per day, which is usu­ally spent on items avail­able from the tuck shop or on ser­vices, such as tele­vi­sion rental.

The Ir­ish Prison Ser­vice (IPS) has said that all loans are re­paid “in gen­eral”, al­though in­mates can walk away from the debt if they get re­leased ear­lier than planned.

“The cri­te­ria for pro­vid­ing loans to a pris­oner are de­ter­mined by each gov­er­nor,” said a spokesper­son for the IPS. “Loans are given to pris­on­ers for nu­mer­ous rea­sons. For ex­am­ple, con­fir­ma­tions, com­mu­nions, fam­ily birthdays, for is­sue to fam­ily mem­bers, to pur­chase ra­dios and Plays­ta­tions, toi­letries, etc.

“Re­pay­ment plans are put in place based on a num­ber of cri­te­ria — such as re­lease dates, avail­able cash bal­ances — to en­sure they are re­paid prior to re­lease. In gen­eral, all loans are re­paid, un­less a pris­oner is re­leased ear­lier.”

Records re­leased un­der the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act re­veal that €498,708 was given to con­victed crim­i­nals by the IPS in in­ter­est-free loans in the past three years.

Mid­lands Prison, Port la oise, which houses no­to­ri­ous killers Gra­ham Dwyer, Mark Nash, and Ger­ald Barry, pro­vided €139,880 in loans to its pris­on­ers dur­ing that pe­riod — more than any other jail.

The next-big­gest lender was Moun­tjoy Prison in Dublin, where pris­on­ers bor­rowed €88,003 over three years. The Dóchas Cen­tre, on the Moun­tjoy cam­pus, where fe­male of­fend­ers are de­tained, pro­vided €30,366 in loans to its in­mates.

A short­list of ex­am­ples, in re­spect of loans that were ap­proved last year, was pro­vided by the IPS. These in­cluded a €300 Christ­mas loan for a pris­oner in Moun­tjoy, €300 for an Xbox at Lim­er­ick Prison, €300 for a stereo at Mid­lands Prison, and €300 for a dog at the Dóchas Cen­tre.

“When a loan is given to a pris­oner, a di­rect debit is set up to au­to­mat­i­cally debit the pris­oner’s ac­count each Sun­day night,” said the IPS spokesper­son. “The re­pay­ment amount is de­ter­mined by the value of the loan, the regime the pris­oner is on, and the ex­pected re­lease date of the pris­oner.”

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