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Cushy jail life in the Hill -- rapist's four-star home

Larry Murphy spent 10 years in Arbour Hill prison, known in prison circles as the place to be, if you have to be behind bars.

Unlike other institutions, 'the Hill' does not suffer from the overcrowding which plagues practically every other jail.

The Visiting Committee which checks out the State's institutions gave it a four-star recommendation in the most recent 2008 annual report.

"Arbour Hill is extremely well run, it is kept spotless and in pristine condition," says the report.



Battle

"There is a very humane and caring ethos in this facility," it continues, praising staff, for their "professional yet caring approach to the inmates".

The population is almost exclusively made up of sex offenders.

While prison officers in Mountjoy -- where slopping out and shivs (makeshift knives) are the order of the day -- face an ongoing battle of wits, things are very different in Arbour Hill. The staff/prisoner relationship is credited for "maintaining the unique atmosphere and humanity of this facility".

"Everyone is assigned a job of work or engaged in further education."

Murphy, a trained carpenter, contributed to woodwork projects, including the restoration of a small cruiser which was donated to charity.

The 2008 report highlights that it has a well stocked library, as well as a visitors waiting room "with limited playing facilities for young children".

The physical wellbeing of prisoners is well catered for in the gymnasium, says the report, adding that special courses are run for the over 50s.

It is a drug-free facility and there is 24-hour orderly/nurse cover with a GP visiting five days a week and on call at weekends.

There are three resident psychologists, a visiting psychiatrist, psychiatric nurse, psychotherapist and chiropodist.

An optician is available as required and various welfare groups, the AA and the Samaritans are available.

Visiting Committee Chairman Rita Hayes stressed in her summary to the Minister for Justice: "Arbour Hill is not a cold or frightening place, rather it is a warm and caring facility that delivers custody with care, in keeping with its constitutional and legal obligations."

Today, Larry Murphy may regret leaving his comfort zone.

cmallon@herald.ie