Women jailed for not making credit union payments, prison governor resigns


Mountjoy prison in Dublin during a Shell to Sea protestKathleen McMahon the governor of Mountjoy Prison's Dóchas Centre has resigned after 10 years in the job saying that the prison was chronically overcrowded. 137 women are crammed into a space designed for 85 many for 'low risk' crimes including failure to meet loan repayments to credit unions for which she says "they never should have been jailed." A number of Shell to Sea campaigners have also been jailed in Mountjoy over the last few months including four for trivial Public Order offences that were later struck out at their trial and where it was judged they had been subject to wrongful detention.

She warned that the overcrowding would result in "self-mutilation, bullying, depression" and that it appeared the government were deliberately creating a "more punitive" regime which has included denying temporary release for low risk prisoners to attend family events. She described many of the prisoners as being from poor backgrounds.

Writing in todays Irish Times Paul MacKay, a member of the Mountjoy Visiting Committee reveled that he is "horrified by the appalling conditions experienced by inmates" but that when he tried to raise these he was met with "denial, indifference and obstruction." Prisoners he revealed were sleeping on the floors of cells "infested with cockroaches, mice, ants and other assorted vermin." Overcrowding in which 630 male prisoners are forced into a space for 489 means that some are sleeping in showers and reception areas. He also attributed the overcrowding to failure to pay debts and fines.