expenditure  | 

Almost €320k spent last year on providing TVs and premium channels in Irish prisons

Prison chiefs have routinely attributed regular access to TVs in jails as playing a key role in bringing down cases of self-harm and suicide

400 television sets were delivered to Mountjoy Prison last year, new figures reveal.

Nick Bramhill

The Irish Prison Service (IPS) has defended a six-figure taxpayer-funded bill to supply inmates with TV sets and access to multi-channel services.

Almost €320,000 was spent in total last year on the combined costs of providing televisions and premium channels, such as Sky Sports, in prisons.

Prison chiefs have routinely attributed regular access to TVs in jails as playing a key role in bringing down cases of self-harm and suicide, along with making the nation's prisons safer environments for both inmates and staff.

But the Irish Prison Service said the expenditure has been even more vital over the past two years, as Covid-related rulings had resulted in both curbs on visitor numbers and prisoners increased periods of time in their cells.

A spokesperson for the IPS said: "The incidents of self-harm and suicide in prisons have been dramatically reduced since the introduction of televisions in prisons a number of years ago.

"The other key benefit has been the lessening of tension of landings, in that it helps to maintain a less volatile atmosphere and thus reduces incidents of conflict and violence among prisoners. It also makes a safer working environment for prison staff.

"They have been even more critical during Covid-19, where prisoners have experienced longer periods in their cells and there were restrictions on physical visits."

Closer analysis of the newly-released data reveals that a total of 1,493 TVs were supplied to the State's prisons in 2021, with each set costing €130.

Of those, 400 sets were delivered to Mountjoy Prison - almost double the 222 sent to Cloverhill, the next biggest recipient.

According to information released under the Freedom of Information Act, a total of €244,893.81 was spent last year on TVs - including the supply of sets for other prison areas, such as recreational and communal spaces and visiting rooms.

Separately, multi-channel services, including the provision of Netflix in all prisons, cost €74,230.05 in 2021.

The IPS also confirmed that it maintains a stock of spare TVs "to meet demand as it rises".

The spokesperson added: "It is important to note that TVs installed in prison cells suffer from extensive wear and tear, as well as suffering damage from time to time.

"When there is deliberate damage to a TV by a prisoner, the prisoner may be subject to disciplinary action in accordance with the prison rules, and liable to contribute towards the cost of repairs."

A deduction of 15 cent for in-cell television services is automatically taken from the daily gratuity payment that every prisoner receives from the IPS.

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