Thursday, February 24, 2011
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
I’m sitting here thinking what I can productively do for an investigative journalism assignment. I am cautious that I might come across left wing sometimes so I want to broaden my view and use factual information to back up my theories in relation to the topic of choice.
I have decided to investigate the impact of the recent budget cuts on education in the Wicklow Area and what implications these cuts will have in the coming years.
I believe that education is an extremely important pillar within society and in order to maintain a healthy flourishing mind one needs to continuously look to educate oneself. Obviously for a young teenager this is the last thing on their mind and understandably so, but if we can stress and show the importance of education in the long term development of a young mind we will be taking a giant leap in tackling some serious social problems. The focus of my investigation will be on how the cuts will impede on the progress that has been made and could have been made. I hope you find this interesting.
I will keep you updated on my finding.
Monday, February 21, 2011
Alone and afraid they sleep. With their bodies shaking vigorously, their bodies numb, they toss and turn in the hope of gaining some warmth from their actions. Being homeless means a lot of depravation and hardships, many of which we as a society can prevent.
When you finish up in work this evening and return home, kiss your wife and see your kids spare a quick thought for those on the streets. We all take so much for granted, even the smallest of things like placing your feet in front of the fire whilst you eat a warm meal. But for many people in Dublin and the surrounding areas this is a dream, something which unfortunately eludes them time and time again.
In Dublin City alone there are an estimated 70 people without a bed tonight. In arctic conditions such as the ones we are currently facing, conditions in which someone could lose their life in.
It’s Friday night in Donnybrook village. A man who sits on the compacted ice with only a thin blanket and piece of cardboard gives me the sharpest look, a look which won’t be forgotten. This look made me feel his pain. We have spoken before as the man often comes into my workplace, guilt and sadness spreads like wildfire throughout my body. Complaining about the bus being delayed puts this person’s problem into context for me.
Whilst I give the man a coffee, I feel a little bit better, but not much. For me it is easy to return home to a warm house. But what will become of him? What will be the implications of him sleeping in this doorway tonight?
“I didn’t commit any crime or anything like that, just unlucky. I had a fight with my da one night when I was about 13 and the rest is history I suppose”.
We share a conversation as my bus hasn’t arrived yet and is delayed for some time. Plumes of smoke pass my face and my nose starts to run. The cold is nasty. It’s minus 7 and its only eight o clock. “I have slept everywhere in Dublin to be honest, as a mixture of laughter and chesty coughs emerge”.
The deprivation in this mans eyes was frightening, his eyes are reflective and filled with sadness for all to see. It is hard to imagine there are many more men and women in the exact same situation as Paul around the city tonight. “I would love to be able to start all over again, like to be able to go to college and wear nice clothes like, people think that I am doing this because I am lazy or something, I’m not.
“Man this is my last Christmas on the street I swear to god. Sometimes I can make a few quid begging and I would choose drink over smokes like because with the drink you can sleep a bit better. Getting a smoke of someone is handy enough as well, you might as well forget about getting a drink of them though”, he states as he manages another unhealthy chuckle.
The Department of the Environment estimates that in 2005, there were 2,399 homeless households in Ireland, with a further 9,212 households living in unfit accommodation, overcrowded accommodation or involuntarily sharing accommodation.
The Department of the Environment also estimated that 25,045 people were not reasonably able to meet the cost of their accommodation.In Dublin the number of homeless adults in March 2005 was 1,552 with 485 homeless dependents (22 of these dependents were over 18 years of age) across 1,361 households. 43 per cent reported being homeless for more than three years. There were 185 rough sleepers with the remainder staying in emergency or insecure accommodation. In this assessment there was a ratio of 2:1, men to women, among those who reported themselves as homeless. 46 per cent reported their age as between 26 and 39 years old. Single person households form the vast majority of those experiencing homelessness.
Philip is an alcoholic but has been in permanent accommodation for over two years now. “Ah its great having my own place around family and all, I still have a problem with drink which I’m trying to sort out at the moment. This drink racket isn’t easy, people think it is, but it’s worse than most addictions.
Philip was sleeping rough in Dublin city for over five years until a family member decided to help him clean himself up. “I talk to a lot of the lads I slept with on the streets, there all great people like, just unfortunate”.
“I travelled to Dublin a couple of days ago and seen a couple of people I knew. It’s so cold at the moment and I know what it can be like out there so I offered them a place to stay. The County Council wont be to happy if they find out, but I don’t care, I feel sorry for them and I know what they are going through, it’s a tough life out there on the streets and dangerous.”
There are many agencies which are available to a person experiencing homelessness such as Focus Ireland, The Simon Community and Merchants key. However with the upcoming budget these institutions and the work they do is under serious threat.
These agencies are pivotal in combating homelessness which is currently on the rise.
As a society especially at this time of the year, we should all make a special effort to help out the homeless. It doesn’t have to be large sums of money, or giving up all your time. All types of help is positive help, let it be big or small.
Glaring suspiciously at the black iron piece on one wall which had three symbols formed from brass, I wondered about its significance. First the ship, symbolizing deportation to Australia; then the "auld triangle", formerly used by the prison chief to summon the prisoners to meals, etc. The final symbol was a cross, which represents the prisoners executed here during the 1916 rising. Greeted with a firm handshake and stern smile Stephan Langton of the Irish Prison Services introduces himself.
Enclosed in a tiny cell originally designed for one inmate, is three prisoners, some of whom are imprisoned for public order offences such as being intoxicated in a public places, or inability to pay fines. Unfortunately for these prisoners, this means sleeping side by side with some of Irelands toughest criminals. This wasn’t the democratic society depicted to the outside world.
Mount joy prison was built in 1850 and is the primary committal prison in the state for adults 18 and over. It was designed by prison architect Joshua Jebb. Mountjoy was originally built with the view of it providing a first stop for men. Then they would later be transferred first to Spike Island, and later, Van Diemen’s land. However this is not the case as Mountjoy is currently over capacity and is ready to burst at the seams. The current number of inmates stands at 850 prisoners. This prison was only built for 454.
In a Sociological and Criminological Profile conducted by Mr. Paul O’Mahony in 1997, he concluded that the majority of prisoners in Mount Joy Prison are mainly young male offenders. Further more, the prisoners all have common fibers which attribute to the reason as to why they have ended up in prison. The vast majority of prisoners in Mountjoy prison haven’t completed any state examinations, and originate from five main postal districts situated in Dublin. Among his findings Mr. O’ Mahony also states:
The mean age for the total sample of 124 prisoners was 28 years and the age
range was between 19 and 58. Approximately 38% of the total sample were
under 25 years and about 69% were under 30. Only 6% were over 40 years
Only 20 of the achieved sample (of 108 prisoners) had ever been married
and only 9 of these were still married at the time of the survey. However, a
further 46% of the prisoners had been in a common law relationship. For
46% of this common law group the relationship had already ended.
Only 3 prisoners had current addresses outside of Ireland. A further two
prisoners had addresses in Northern Ireland. Of the remaining 99 prisoners,
only 12 were from outside the Greater Dublin area. Almost all of the Dublin
prisoners were from areas characterized by a high proportion of corporation
housing and often by the prevalence of opiate drug abuse and high levels of
long term unemployment.
“Things haven’t changed dramatically within the prison over the past number of years, however we have made great progress in terms of hygiene in and around the prison,” stated Mr. Langton. Prisoners have no other option but to use a steel bucket as a toilet and later dispose of this at an arranged time every day. However some prisoners have stated that because of the lack of sanitary disposal facilities they are sometimes forced to put their daily secretions and feces into bins on the prison landings. This simply cannot be tolerated as it is inhumane and also very unhygienic. In a damming report in 2009 by Inspector of Prisons, Judge Michael Kelly stated “this practice is simply inhumane and degrading for prisoners….. I have witnessed liquids leaking from bags being carried by prisoners to collection points within the prison.”
This is an absolute disgrace within Irish prison regulations and something fast needs to be done if we are to avoid catastrophic levels of drugs, riots, and even murders within the prison. However Mr Langton is confident the new Thornton Hall prison, which is currently being built in Dublin will keep moving despite the country being in arguably the worst economic decline in the history of the state. “It’s a necessity and it most definitely must go ahead,” said Mr. Langton
In 2004 the minister for justice stated that the first 400 cells will be built in four years time and that the prison will have 1,400 cells for 2,200 prisoners. So if this is to be the case we should see the first 400 prisoners moved from Mountjoy prison to Thornton Hall in the New Year. In the same statement Dermot Ahern described Thornton Hall as the cornerstone of the Government’s prison policy.
If the new prison isn’t complete within the next year we could see further outbreaks of violence within Mountjoy, as it simply cannot house the ever increasing numbers through its gates. In October 2005, a prisoner set fire to his cell but it was quickly taken under control. In May of 2006, A 22-year-old prisoner in was treated for a stab wound to his neck at Dublin's Mater Hospital. No weapon was ever found and no arrests were made. In March 2007 another man was attacked by up to four prisoners and stabbed repeatedly in the upper thighs.
In recent times staffs have been attacked with one prison officer getting slashed across the face leaving him permanently scarred. These are just some of the forms of violence as a result of prisoners’ anger at the conditions in which there are living. When asked about the relationship between prisoners’ and prison officers Mr. Langton stated “I reckon that there is a very, very good relationship between prisoners’ and staff members, but on both sides there are always a few who are not very nice to each other….. Not every prison officer is going to get on with every prison officer.”
Mountjoy has become a battle ground for survival amongst prisoners’ and prison officers alike. The violence the prison is seeing now will only continue to get worse until the real problems of living conditions and security measures are addressed. It is a 19th century prison which is detaining 21st century prisoners. Mayhem and chaos will always prevail.
Hygiene conditions in Mountjoy Prison “are not as bad as they used to be, but overcrowding is a massive problem,” according to Mr. Stephan Langton of the Irish Prison Services Visiting Committee.
Mr. Langton stated that conditions are “improving” despite an independent report in 2009. The report stated that Mountjoy Prison’s sanitary system was dehumanising and inhumane.
Mountjoy prison has been immensely criticised in areas such as violence, overcrowding and massive drug problems within the prison over the past two years.
Last month the violence within Mountjoy erupted, and tensions at the prison still remain high. The violence escalated after a prisoner was refused admission into the recreational area. He later returned with more inmates armed with snooker balls and cues, and carried out his attack.
Four men were injured in the riot but did not sustain life threatening injuries. An officer was struck violently in the head with a snooker cue and another officer was viciously hit also in the head with a snooker ball. The culprit received a nine month concurrent sentence for his involvement in sparking the riot.
“Prisoners sophistication in areas such as concealing drugs is overwhelming, we have discovered drugs placed under the seal of envelopes, and placed within clothing, but we are happy with the progress made in combating these problems,” stated Mr. Langton.
Mr. Langton stated that he has proposed “low risk prisoners being incarcerated during the day, and being aloud to go home in the evening to their families,” to the Law Reform Commission. This could considerably reduce the over crowding problem within the prison which was originally designed for 454 prisoners but detains 850.
The Government are aware of the problems which are evident within Mountjoy’s male prison for some time. Thornton hall, which is currently under construction in North County Dublin, is expected to ease overcrowding issues. It is aimed at providing a better infra-structure for prisoners and prison officers.
The Minister for Justice Mr. Dermott Ahern has said that he is determined to see the project through which is estimated to cost the taxpayer €400 million upon completion.
Thornton hall prison will replace Mountjoy Prison within the next number of years. When the prison which is being built in three phases, is complete there will be 1,400 cells with just one inmate to each cell. Mountjoy currently has up to four prisoners to each cell.
The government had hoped that the funding of the new prison would come from the sale of Mountjoy prison, but with the cost of property at an all time low it’s unlikely the sale of Mountjoy will be enough to cover the cost of Thornton Hall. The purchase of the site took place in 2005 and cost the government €30 million.
Fine Gael Spokesman for Justice and Law Reform, Alan Shatter T.D., stated that the type of money wasting and time delay that has characterized the Thornton Hall project from the start makes it difficult to believe any timeline or financial estimate this Government puts forward in regard to building the prison.
“This Government’s ability to waste taxpayer’s money is astounding. Over €42 million has been spent on the Thornton Hall project with almost nothing to show for it. The Thornton Hall project was started in 2005 but the tender for building it will not be put out until next year,” stated Mr. Shatter.
According to the Minister it will be next year before the walls around the prison are completed, and 2014 at the earliest before the first prison buildings are finished. The project which is to be completed in a phased approach was originally though to be complete by mid summer of this year.