herald

Thursday 26 April 2018

Crime pays as prisoners given €2.6m of taxpayers' cash for sweets and cigs

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A "standard" daily rate of €1.70 now applies, but this can be increased to rate of €2.20 if a prisoner is compliant, or reduced to 95c if they misbehave. Stock photo: PA Archive

Nearly €2.6m of taxpayers' cash was doled out to prisoners as pocket money last year, new figures have revealed.

Inmates received a "daily gratuity" from the Irish Prison Service (IPS), which can be used to buy confectionery, cigarettes or computer games.

Nearly €30m has been given to prisoners under the taxpayer-funded scheme since 2009.

Behaviour

However, an increase in the number of prisoners on a reduced rate of gratuity as a result of bad behaviour contributed to the total cost of the scheme falling by almost €340,000 last year compared with 2016.

Before 2012, all inmates were entitled to a flat-rate gratuity of €2.35 per day.

An incentivised regime was then introduced, allowing pocket money to be increased or reduced depending on behaviour.

A "standard" daily rate of €1.70 now applies, but this can be increased to rate of €2.20 if a prisoner is compliant, or reduced to 95c if they misbehave.

Records released under the Freedom of Information Act show the proportion of prisoners on the punitive basic rate increased from 7pc to 9pc last year, while 45pc and 46pc of inmates were paid the standard and enhanced rates respectively.

In addition to receiving a daily allowance, inmates can earn additional pocket money by mucking in with chores, including painting, cleaning, cooking, grounds maintenance, laundry and waste management.

Prisoners can spend the cash on discretionary items such as toiletries and tobacco from the tuck shop, as well as paying for television rental or other services offered by the IPS.

The money can also be saved until a prisoner is released.

Inmates at Shelton Abbey in Co Wicklow, who were given €72,352 last year, can also spend their money on the high street as the institution is an open prison.

Detainees can also apply for interest-free loans from the prison, and repay the borrowing using their daily gratuities.

Killers

A total of €500,000 was loaned to prisoners between 2014 and 2016 for a wide variety of purposes including the purchase of games consoles and stereos.

Last year, the Midlands Prison in Portlaoise, which houses notorious killers Graham Dwyer and Mark Nash, paid the highest amount of pocket money to inmates through the gratuity schemes at €570,470. This was followed by €396,328 paid by Mountjoy Prison and €310,487 by Wheatfield.

The total paid to prisoners under the gratuity scheme last year was €2,596,018.

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