Kathleen Mahon, the Governor of the Dóchas Women’s Prison situated in the Mountjoy complex has resigned citing ‘impossible’ conditions’ – the Women’s Prison is overcrowded with 137 prisoners in a centre designed to accommodate 85.
Meanwhile, Paul McKay a member of the Mountjoy Visiting Committee writes a highly critical piece in today’s Irish Times describing his ‘horror’ at the appalling conditions in the men’s prison next door to the Dóchas centre.
The Irish Penal Reform Trust have issued the following response to today’s resignation:
GOVERNOR’S RESIGNATION YET ANOTHER ALARM CALL FOR MINISTER
The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) has today expressed deep concern at the resignation of Kathleen McMahon, Governor of the Dóchas Centre. The issues cited by the Governor on her resignation are worrying in the extreme, and IPRT is calling on both prison management and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to take responsibility for the issues of overcrowding in the prison and the consequent impact on prison regime identified by Governor McMahon.
Speaking today, Executive Director Liam Herrick said:
This unprecedented public gesture by a prison governor sounds a clear alarm call for government that even our most progressive prison can no longer achieve its stated purpose. If the Governor of a prison says that she cannot do her job under these conditions, then the onus is on Government to address the issues of policy that have precipitated the growing overcrowding crisis in our prisons.
Much has been achieved in the past ten years in what is a progressive and modern prison, and this is now threatened by a failure of government policy. Kathleen McMahon has taken a brave step for the staff and prisoners of the Dóchas Centre and it is critical now that this resignation is a watershed for policy towards women offenders.
In December 2009, the Women in Prison Reform Alliance, of which IPRT is a member, made a detailed submission to the Minister for Justice calling for a comprehensive review of policy and practice in relation to women who come into the criminal justice system. We believe that such a review will identify effective and cheap non-custodial options for many categories of women offender, ultimately leading to a reduction in the need for secure imprisonment. To date we have not received a response from the Minister to this proposal.