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Cell phones: €1.1m spent installing telephones in every cell at four prisons

Inmates in Mountjoy and Arbour Hill will have to wait until 2023 before telephones are installed in their cells.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

LANDLINE TELEPHONES HAVE been installed in 804 prison cells at a cost of more than €1 million this year, and work is underway to extend the convenience to every inmate in the state.

Four of the country’s 12 detention facilities now have an analogue telephone in every cell, meaning inmates in Castlerea, Cloverhill, Limerick and Midlands prisons can make phone calls without leaving their rooms.

The purchase and installation of the equipment has cost a total of €1,131,688 to date, and it’s intended to provide “in-cell telephony” for prisoners in Cork, Portlaoise, Wheatfield, and the Dóchas Centre by the end of this year.

Inmates in Mountjoy and Arbour Hill, which is the national centre for male sex offenders, will have to wait until 2023 before telephones are installed in their cells.

The telephone handsets themselves are basic and cost €16 each, according to records released under Freedom of Information laws. However, associated IT equipment costs €156.70 and running cables to cells has cost €992,837.

The handset currently allows only outgoing calls, although a spokesman for the Irish Prison Service (IPS) said a “dial-in” system may be considered in future.

He described the project as a “very positive initiative” that would be of great benefit to those in the prison system both now and in the future, citing the importance of maintaining family relations.

One of the benefits is that in-cell telephones allow prisoners to choose the time when they make calls to suit themselves and the people they’re calling, he added.

Strict limits remain on prisoners’ use of telephones, however. They can only call approved numbers, their calls are recorded, and the frequency and duration of calls are subject to limits.

Providing telephones in 178 cells at Castlerea Prison cost a total of €152,104, according to IPS figures, while €208,682 was spent installing 168 devices in Cloverhill. The project cost €183,712 in Limerick Prison, while 804 phones were installed at Midlands Prison at a cost of €707,194.

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In a response to a parliamentary question last month, Justice Minister Helen McEntee said maintaining contact with family and friends while in custody plays an important role in the rehabilitation of prisoners.

“The in-cell telephony project will enhance the prison service’s ability to provide prisoners with a platform to support this contact,” she said.

Outlining the anticipated time frame for the rollout of the project, McEntee noted that this could be affected by supply-chain issues and the availability of necessary resources.

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Darragh McDonagh

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