Dáil Éireann - Volume 183 - 29 June, 1960
Criminal Justice Bill, 1960—Second Stage (Resumed).
Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”
Mr. Dillon Mr. Dillon
Mr. Dillon: The Minister, in his introductory statement, covered the ground relating to the treatment of prisoners generally in prisons and places of detention. Our Holy Father, the Pope, has set us all a good example in visiting the prisons of Rome during last Christmas season. Emulating that example, it may be no harm to refer to certain matters the Minister has mentioned in his statement introducing this Bill from the point of view of someone incarcerated in a prison. I do not want to employ a phrase which might possibly appear  to be uncomplimentary, but I did detect in the Minister's opening statement a measure of what I must describe as almost smug equanimity which I thought strange coming from one who I hoped had a full understanding of the problems with which he has to grapple.
There are few Deputies who are not personally, or at least vicariously, familiar with the insides of prisons. Many of our colleagues have been inside as prisoners. Some of us have heard at second hand of conditions within prisons. Others of us accepted the prudent discipline of visiting the prisons when we became legislators so that we might have a clear knowledge of what we were doing if we legislated in such a way as to make it possible to imprison our neighbour. I visited all the prisons in this country, Borstal, the reformatories and some of the industrial schools. One has always to bear in mind that, for anybody entering a penal institution of any kind for the first time, there is always the possibility that he may experience a certain feeling of shock. But, having recovered from that, it is, I think, the duty of all legislators to attempt at least to take an objective and a charitable view of the circumstances of people upon whom the misfortune of imprisonment has fallen.
The Minister, in reviewing the text of this Bill, said:
“Although no substantial modifications in the statutory code for the treatment of offenders have taken place since the establishment of the State a number of improvements in prison conditions have been effected by administrative action. Prisoners receive more substantial meals of better quality.”
I think it is no harm to look at that statement from the point of view of a prisoner——
Minister for Justice (Mr. Traynor) Oscar Traynor
Minister for Justice (Mr. Traynor): I strongly advise the Deputy not to accept that as gospel.
Mr. Dillon Mr. Dillon
Mr. Dillon: ——recently released from a penal institution. We are all familiar with the volume which sometimes  appears over the name of a recently released prisoner, the contents of which are manifestly distorted by the sense of bitterness and resentment that one who suffered imprisonment is likely to experience. This book, to which we shall attach no more importance than is its due, makes a claim upon our attention, in my opinion, because of the moderation of its language and because of the wise and generous tribute that is paid to the governor of the prison in which this prisoner spent his period of detention, the tribute he pays to the chief officer and the tribute he pays to the humanity, general decency, and kindness of the prison officers.
I find that usually, if you read a story by a prisoner, it includes violent animadversions on those into whose custody the writer was delivered. This story, from which I shall quote, is marked by the fact that it testifies rather to the kindness and humanity not only of the governor but of almost all the officers with whom he was brought in contact. I am not asking the House to accept the quotations I give as anything approaching gospel, but I think they are a necessary antidote to the phrase employed by the Minister: “Prisoners receive more substantial meals of better quality”. I have no doubt the Minister believes that.
I should like to give the House now an impression of how those meals appear to the men who have to eat them. One of them has it to say, at any rate, that the food is poor, inadequate and monotonous:
The food a prisoner gets is limited to white bread, potatoes, cabbage, onions, tea, margarine, a morsel of beef or mutton, an infinitesimal portion of jam, the concoction called “broth”, and on Fridays one pint of milk and two ozs. of bread and ¾ oz. of margarine.
The tea ration supplied at 4.30 is the same as that supplied at breakfast. For supper at 7.30 p.m. another pint of tea, four ozs. of bread with a little jam.
There are four different kinds of dinner during the week. On Mondays and Wednesdays it is Irish  Stew and 2 ozs. of bread. What is called “Irish Stew” is not Irish Stew. The dietary says mutton uncooked 8 ozs., potatoes 20 ozs., onion or carrot 2 ozs., and flour 2 ozs. These ingredients are put in one 30 gallon pot and boiled together. The potatoes weigh about 20 stone. Six stone of mutton, cut in small pieces, is put in with the potatoes. The mutton had always much more fat than lean in it and the fat was that woolly kind of suet that caused nausea when it touched a tender palate... Two stone of carrots or onions and two stone of flour are added. The “Irish Stew” that resulted was a sodden mass of fat, flour and potatoes. The onions or carrots gave little flavour to the mush. As the stew cooled it congealed and became an uneatable and objectionable looking mess. Quite a lot of it was left uneaten by the hungry prisoners and found its way as swill to the pighouse... On Tuesdays and Saturdays the dietary consisted of 16 ozs. of cabbage, or other vegetables, four ozs. and bread 4 ozs... The meat came in miscellaneous pieces and was boiled the day before, just as it arrived, untrimmed, uncleaned, unblanched, in one of the 30 gallon pots. The meat was taken out when boiled and the water was left in the pot overnight. On the following day some left-over stirabout, flour and onions were added and the whole re-boiled. This was the broth. It was served from a milk can of the usual kind, with broad base and narrow mouth, by a prisoner using a pint milk measure. Naturally it spilled against the narrow mouth of the milk can and soiled the server's shirt, coat-sleeves or bare arms...
The dinner dietary on Thursday and Sundays was corned beef (uncooked 8 ozs.), cabbage 4 ozs., potatoes 16 ozs. and bread 4 ozs.
In this case also the meat was cooked on the day before use.
On Fridays the dinner dietary was rice 2 ozs., dry bread 8 ozs., and a pint of milk. As an alternative the doctor might allow a prisoner to get  vegetable soup and 20 ozs. of potatoes instead of the rice and milk.
The only vegetable was cabbage and I may interpolate that cabbage is a very good vegetable.
The quotation continues:
When it was unobtainable, a desert-spoonful of boiled onion mush or similar quantity of mashed parsnips, turnips or carrots was substituted for it. The cabbage for about 250 was packed in cold water in one of the 30 gallon pots at 7 a.m., brought to the boil quickly and boiled continuously until sometime after 10 a.m. It was then taken out of the pot, chopped on a wooden tray and put on plates with a tiny meat ration. The plates of cabbage and cold meat were stacked, one on top of the other, in such a way that the bottom of one plate was bedded down on the cabbage and meat on the plate underneath it. All the plates so stacked were then placed on a tin or aluminium tray which was set on top of one of the 30 gallon pots containing boiling water from which the steam was rising. The tray and the plates on it were then covered with a sheet and in this crude way an effort was unsuccessfully made to heat up the dinners before they were served at 12.30. By dinner time the cabbage was dark, cold, smelly and unhealthy looking and could have had no value whatever. At dinner time the potatoes in their jackets were put on top of the cabbage and meat on the plates and in this way the prisoner got his dinner.
Many of the enamel plates on which the dinners are served were often damaged... Sometimes they leaked as a result of rust eating through the metal where the enamel had chipped or broken off. The washing of the plates is carried out in accordance with the routine approved by the Minister. The forty to forty-five plates for a class are collected by the prisoner who is class orderly and are, with the knives and forks, put into a bucket of warm  water and washed without soap or other detergent. They are then dried with cloths, better not described.
This prisoner goes on to say:
The only cooking facilities provided in the prison kitchen are four 30-gallon pots, one 40-gallon pot and a steamer for the potatoes. Everything, except the potatoes on four days a week, has to be boiled in those five pots.... The 40-gallon pot is used for making tea. Of the remaining four, one is for stirabout, one for the cabbage, one for boiling meat, rice, broth or stew and one for hot water.
I do not ask the House to accept that as a foolproof description of prison diet. That is a view of the prison diet from the viewpoint of a man who had to consume it day in and day out for more than two years and who, evidently, came from a background where unpalatable food would not have been his ordinary diet. On the other hand, it is the impression created on a man who experienced that over two years, not coming from a background of extravagant luxury where plain and common food would constitute an intolerable burden. I offer it to the House merely as a comment on the phrase that “a number of improvements in prison conditions have been effected by administrative action”. I am quoting from the Minister's statement which says “prisoners receive more substantial meals of better quality”.
I remember years ago visiting a county home in Roscommon in which some of my own neighbours were living. I was then a member of the board of health and I remember being greatly shocked to see these people being asked to eat their daily meals off chipped enamel plates. I do not think it had occurred to anybody what a humiliation that was to them and what a daily hardship it was. It had been going on for the previous 70 years and nobody had ever thought to change it, but I must say that the moment I drew it to the attention of my colleagues on the board of health, all the enamel plates were thrown away and we were able to substitute plain china and plain  delph. The difference that made to people who had to take their meals day after day in the conditions of the old county home was very great.
Today we are living in an era in which unbreakable crockery is readily available; yet prisoners are still continuing to eat off chipped enamel plates in Mountjoy Jail just because nobody has ever said anything about it. Why not throw the whole lot out and get unbreakable plastic crockery and let these people have their meals in conditions which do not constitute a daily hardship on them?
This is a little pamphlet to which I do not want to attach too much importance. I simply offer it as a recent impression of a prisoner. It is not extravagantly written. It does not seek to make the case that everybody in Mountjoy is a highly cultivated person suffering under intolerable conditions. It readily recognises that the handling of prisoners in Mountjoy becomes an extremely difficult problem because many of them are of the most difficult kind, which this prisoner has no hesitation in stating can be classified as first offenders, frequent offenders, habitual offenders, “moochers”, those decrepit old beggars one sees from time to time all over the country, winers — more properly described as chronic alcoholics — “knackers”, being the tough type of itinerant tinker, and sexual offenders of one kind or another.
These also have to be sub-divided into youthful offenders and adult offenders and the Minister is to be congratulated on recognising that some measure of segregation, particularly in respect of young persons at first committal on remand, was necessary and is taking powers to give effect to that desirable end. But allowing for the fact that the type of prisoner ordinarily incarcerated in our prisons is of a very mixed type, I do not think it is an extravagant claim, (1), that we should substitute more suitable crockery than chipped enamel and, (2), that you are not providing “more substantial meals of better quality,” to quote the Minister's statement, simply by stipulating that there must be so much meat, so much vegetables, so  much raw materials. No matter how much raw meat and vegetables there are, a meal is not a meal until it has been cooked and put before the person who has to eat it.
Nobody, no reasonable person, expects that meals served in a penal institution will approximate to those served in one's home or in a restaurant, but I do think they ought to reach a certain standard of decency and that, in addition to the ordinary pains and penalties of detention, those of our neighbours who are unfortunate enough to find themselves in prison should not be asked to accept their food in conditions which I shall describe as sordid but which much more poetical language might pardonably be used to describe. I am trying to soft-pedal this. I could tear passion to tatters about the conditions in which these people get their food. However, I do not think that is necessary because I do not believe the Minister and I are in substantial difference about these matters. For that reason, I am going to say the extracts I am reading are not guaranteed to be absolutely objective and clear, but I believe they present an aspect of this question to which the Minister's attention should be directed so that what is remiss can be put right.
The Minister goes on to say in his statement that prisoners are permitted cigarettes and tobacco at particular times of the day and in Portlaoise prison, where long-term prisoners are housed, the cigarettes and tobacco are supplied at State expense. I think they are allowed six cigarettes a day at the State's expense in Portlaoise. I think that is a humanitarian and sensible arrangement because sometimes we may forget that, in a desire to relax conditions of prisoners, we rightly concede permission to smoke. But some of us have, perhaps, overlooked the fact that that may make the suffering of those who cannot afford to smoke far greater.
If, as I understand, the rule permits four cigarettes a day to the inmates of Mountjoy, I do suggest that we should either adopt the Portlaoise procedure in Mountjoy and give to  those who want them the four cigarettes they are permitted to smoke and particularly to give to the old people who are broken down, the old alcoholics, the winers, the tramps, the bit of tobacco the rules permit them to use — if they cannot afford it themselves, then at the State's expense— so that they may not be driven to the extremity of scrambling around the exercise yard trying to pick up the exiguous “butts” that their more fortunate neighbours in misfortune may reject after they have smoked as far as they can.
I do not doubt that recommendations of that kind will find a sympathethic reaction with the Minister. I doubt if his mind has turned to it heretofore. I understand that in our prisons the maximum a prisoner can earn by his work is a penny a day. I understand that that figure has remained the same for decades, if not for generations, whereas in the British prisons it has been expanded to four pence or five pence per day. That is not a very princely sum but even if they were allowed to earn four pence or five pence per day that would provide one solution of this tobacco problem because they would at least have that pocket money which they could spend on the enjoyment of the concession we have already decided to make and which the Minister in his statement says has, on the whole, contributed to a better discipline in our penal institutions than was the rule when that kind of concession was denied in the past.
I am sure the Minister believes this when he says it:
As is well known, too, no doubt, the prison garb of former days has been changed for the better and it is the practice, in the generality of cases, to allow prisoners to wear their own clothes.
I should like to draw the attention of the House to how that appears to a prisoner:
If the sentence does not exceed two years, a prisoner may be allowed to wear his own clothes provided the  Governor is satisfied he will get replacements when necessary and a weekly change of shirts, socks, underclothing, collars, ties and handkerchiefs. Prisoners whose sentences are six months or more are issued with a new outfit of prison clothes and boots, but if the sentence is less than six months a prisoner, by order of the Minister for Justice, is issued with used clothing, boots, socks and shirts. The majority of the prisoners are short-term and consequently are dressed in old worn clothes and boots. The old clothing is often stained, torn, dirty, ill-fitting and trampish looking.
May I interpolate here my reaction to that phrase? That last adjective struck a sympathetic chord in me: “and trampish looking”. It is bad enough to find yourself planted in Mountjoy for a month or so. Remember it might happen to any of us. That is a thing I think legislators often forget — that it might happen to any of us. But to be turned into a tramp by the raiment which one is constrained to wear is an indignity which I do not believe any of us think it is expedient to employ as a punitive procedure. So, I return to the quotation:
It is not unusual to see newly-admitted short-term prisoners with torn trousers, either too small or too large, and without buttons on the fork.
Some prisoners have half-mast trousers and others have them rolled up at the bottoms to prevent them dragging on the ground.
I cannot help feeling that there is something almost laughable until the tragic aspect of it strikes me. It is something I do not think any of us desire. In addition to exacting the penalty due to society for wrong-doing, none of us wants to make a person in misfortune a figure of fun. I have not the slightest doubt that, in so far as this is appearing to happen, it is inadvertence; and inasmuch as this little pamphlet directs our attention to these considerations, I think it has a value.
The boots issued to short-term prisoners are often derelict and of different sizes. Many of them,  through being worn by prisoners for whom they were much too big, have an arabic turn up at the toes.
That is, after all, a very eloquent way of painting a picture which it is hard to see unless you have been a daily witness of it.
The used shirts issued are sometimes buttonless, torn and ill-fitting and now and again one may see a prisoner's belly and chest bare from the navel to the throat. The old used suits are not cleaned before re-issue. One suit of clothes may be issued in turn to several prisoners, and it continues to be issued until it falls to pieces. When prisoners are congregated together for Divine Service or for some other purpose, one may get a nauseating smell from those old clothes. For reasons of Ministerial economy, no polish, dubbin or grease is issued for boots, and prison boots are never polished, dubbed or greased during their years of use.
That is the other side of the story which the Minister told us when he said that the prison garb of former years had been changed for the better and that it is the practice in the generality of cases to allow prisoners to wear their own clothes.
Let us remember in this context again that a great number of these recidivists who go to Mountjoy again and again are tramps. Many of them are alcoholics and the most unfortunate elements in our society but one of the purposes we ought to have in mind when they come to prison is to rescue them in so far as we can, and that may not be very far, from the state of dereliction into which they have fallen. Thus to attire them does not seem to me to contribute to that end.
I am fully conscious of the danger of an excessive reforming zeal in advocating uniforms instead of ordinary clothing. That, I believe, would be a mistake but where ordinary clothing cannot be used, owing to the circumstances of the prisoner or the prison, then I imagine something more seemly than what is here described  could be devised — whether by way of overalls or less heavily worn clothing than they are at present using, I am not prepared to say, but clearly it seems that the practice here described requires sympathetic review.
Here is a detail which I feel sure has not been present in the Minister's mind and I do not think I am being unreasonably solicitous when I refer to it, though the Minister is cautious to say on pages 4 and 5:
I am not against change if change would serve a sufficiently useful purpose but in prison administration there is constant pressure from well-intentioned persons to do this or that for the sake of change itself without advertence to the cost.
I suppose I fall within the category of “well-intentioned persons”. I suppose that is true but, nevertheless, “well-intentioned persons”, foolish as they may seem to bureaucratic ears, on occasions are often the source of modest reform. Here is a suggestion that will not cost the State anything more than they are at present spending and so at least the argument of cost will not be advanced against it. I quote:
When a prisoner is admitted, he is not issued with soap or toothbrush. If his sentence is more than three months he may, with the sanction of the prison doctor, be issued with a toothbrush. He is permitted to shave twice a week and goes around for the rest of the week unshaven.
I think this ex-prisoner is justified in saying this helps to break his morale. I continue to quote:
If prisoners were permitted to shave every day it would help towards rehabilitation.
I think he is right. I think it would be a good thing if special permission were provided to require prisoners to shave every day. I think this prisoner or ex-prisoner is right in saying it is a bad thing to prescribe that they may shave only twice a week. It undoubtedly operates to lower the morale and hustle the prisoners into the acceptance of the status of tramps.
 Here is a detail which I think the Minister may profitably bear in mind:
Shirts, socks, towels, sheets and pillow cases come back from the laundry in the female prison very poorly laundered due to out-of-date facilities and inadequate requisites. A prisoner does not get back his own shirt, sheets, socks, towel or pillow case. He just gets an outfit in the pillow case. The shirt that comes back to him may be too big or too small and the socks may be odd ones, non-fitting or badly holed.
I think that is a detail that ought to be remediable and the Minister should provide the means of setting to rights what is there complained of.
I should have thought that the prison hospital, while not being a luxury nursing home, should be a place where special care and kindness would be shown. The inmates of prisons are extremely skilful in dissembling sickness, if they think that thereby they may purchase a soft time for themselves, but experienced prison officers are usually well able to detect that kind of fraud and correct it. We should not, however, consent to a situation in which the really sick in prison are hardly treated in order to deter the malingerer from seeking admission to the hospital. It seems hard that a situation can obtain in which:
The Prison Hospital is detached from the main building but well within the outer walls. Starved of funds for modernisation it is a frowsy dump. Prisoners who are ill, winers suffering from the effects of alcohol poisoned systems, old, infirm moochers, dangerous simpletons, half-wits and lunatics are often to be found in the hospital as patients. Discipline in the hospital is rigid and more severe than in the prison proper and all patients are locked up there in their individual and austerely furnished cells for longer hours than prisoners are locked up in the prison. No experienced prisoner will go into the prison hospital if he can possibly keep out of it. The prison medical officer visits the hospital once  daily, and oftener if necessary, but he has nothing much, if anything, to do with the discipline, routine and administration of the hospital. The prison officers attend to these matters. The patients who are able to walk spend part of the forenoon and afternoon and part of the evening in summer walking in the recreation yard or sitting on the concrete surround.
It is perfectly true that precautions must be taken against malingerers seeking to escape the ordinary prison routine by wangling their way into hospital but I do not think that any of us wish a situation to obtain in which the truly sick resist removal to the prison hospital because they fear its rigours. To set that right and to maintain an even balance between solicitude for the sick and an absence of discipline is not impossible, but I think there must be scope for some improvement there. I do not doubt that some improvement could be provided if better facilities were made available to the prison staff for the handling of sick.
Baths are allowed to hospital patients once a fortnight, as against once a week in the main prison. No bath towel is issued to the prisoners who have to dry themselves with their soiled sheets. The baths are, therefore, given on sheet changing day... No bath in the hospital, or for that matter in the main prison, has a stopper in it. A filthy rag has to be used as a stopper. It collects germs and dirt from one patient's bath and floats them into the bath water being used by the next patient.
That is a very small detail but it seems a hardship that patients in the hospital may have a bath only once a fortnight and that, when they do get one, there cannot be an adequate stopper provided for the bath. Yet the daily or fortnightly recurrence of circumstances of that kind makes the life of a prisoner harder than it ought to be.
When the Minister came to refer to the Question of classification he said:
What are the possibilities of introducing further and large-scale  reforms? Any consideration of this question must take into account the smallness of our prison population — inclusive of all classes, whether prisoners on remand, awaiting trial, debtors and contempt of court prisoners and those under sentences, the average is about 400 — the fact that there are now only four prisons for the detention of offenders, the high proportion of short-term sentences — 60 per cent of the sentences are for periods of under three months — and the expense of providing additional institutions in relation to the use likely to be made of them and the other demands on our resources. These factors combine to make it impracticable to carry out classification and segregation of prisoners to any great extent.
That is almost exasperating.
Every other country in Europe is wrestling with the appalling problem that its prisons are overcrowded and that they have not got accommodation to carry out the segregation which everybody considers necessary. Here our complaint is that we have not enough prisoners to segregate them. Surely, the ingenuity of man should be able to deal with the problem of adequate segregation when, in fact, the total number of prisoners is not sufficient to tax much more than one-half the capacity of our existing criminal institutions. I am glad to see, as I understand it under this Bill, that the Minister is taking power to ensure that young prisoners who are on remand will not be brought into intimate contact with the habitual prison population. I feel that a very much better type of segregation should be both desirable and possible.
I ask Deputies this question: supposing a young fellow goes out, is wild and commits a serious motoring offence as a result of which he gets a month in jail, does anybody in this House think that on being committed to jail he should be brought into intimate contact with people who are recidivists or convicted of grave moral delinquency? I do not want to over-paint this picture or to make an unreasonable case but my mind always goes back  to the bad old days when I first visited Summerhill, that is thirty years ago, and the appalling shock it was to me to find in one room 15 or 20 children. The youngest of those children was little more than two years of age and was in the process of transfer to an industrial school as an orphan. The oldest was a boy of 15 who was on remand for committing a sexual offence against a little girl. That absence of segregation, because they were children in every age group between the little girl and the oldest boy, so shocked me that I pressed successive Ministers very strongly that something was urgently required to be done. I believe something has now been done and there is more effective segregation than in the bad old days.
I am thinking now of a young boy or, worse still, a young girl, although the situation does not arise with girls because as a rule courts do not send a girl to prison. Take a young person who gets into trouble and for whom there is no alternative but to give him a term in jail, if he has been cautioned two or three times and manifestly is going to continue on his course of conduct. He gets say one month in jail. How can it be desirable that that young person should be brought into contact with the other type of prisoners who habituate a penal institution like Mountjoy and who are manifestly quite unsuitable as company for a reckless youth, whom all of us are concerned not alone to check but to redeem? I refer not only to those categories of persons who have been guilty of grave moral delinquency but any decent citizen who gets into trouble which brings him into jail. He has had enough woe surely without equating him in jail with tramps, winers, and “knackers” and all the flotsam and jetsam of prison life with which ordinarily he would have no common contact and with which for his own salvation he should never be identified either in his own mind or in the minds of those into whose care he has been committed when he is sent to jail.
I think there should be segregation. I recognise that to delineate the classes into which prisoners should be segregated presents a problem but it is a  problem that should be faced and if possible resolved. Although we may not be able to achieve perfection, we can certainly make real progress on the situation as it obtains today. I am amazed that the Minister for Justice should, in extenuation of his failure to do so, plead that he has so few prisoners to handle. He is in a more fortunate position than those Ministers for Justice in other countries who are driven to the extremity of incarcerating three prisoners in a cell designed for one because they have nowhere else to put them on account of the excessive numbers with which they have to deal.
I congratulate the Minister on his success, with the assistance of his Grace, the Archbishop of Dublin, in securing suitable accommodation for girls whom it is necessary to remand until contact is made with their families, in order to determine how they are to be ultimately disposed of. I gather they are to be placed in the charge of nuns where they are Catholics, and that the Minister has approached other religious communities to provide analogous accommodation for girls of another faith, if circumstances should require them to do so.
I do not suppose there is any particular reason why the word “Borstal” should be retained, and if it is thought desirable to drop it, well and good, but I do not think we are facing this whole problem of what used to be called Borstal in a realistic way. I think there is only one justification for sending any boy to Borstal. Remember we are dealing with boys under 21 years of age. Would the Minister remind me — must not a boy be under 21 years of age to go to Borstal?
Mr. Traynor Mr. Traynor
Mr. Traynor: Yes.
Mr. Dillon Mr. Dillon
Mr. Dillon: We are dealing with boys under 21 years of age to whom family background is still a matter of consequence. I think we would all be agreed that family discipline is the ideal, if it could be made to function,  and that we would only consent to their removal from the discipline of family life where we were satisfied it had completely broken down or that some rigorous form of treatment had become inevitable.
Any literature I have ever read on this subject is unanimous in expressing the view that no reform or no rehabilitation of character can be effected in an adolescent by a short term of incarceration in a Borstal or prison, and that the only hope of making any impression on a youth at that stage of his life is to accept the inevitable, take him away from his family, put him in an institution and keep him there for a period sufficiently long to remould his character and provide him with the kind of training which will make him capable of facing the world when he returns to it. I have seen that period put at two years, and I have even heard interested and prudent people say that a period of less than four years cannot achieve that purpose. I am prepared to say that a period of two years is the minimum, but I think we are making a mistake if, because we have St. Patrick's, we embark with easy consciences upon a new system of incarcerating young people for short periods in prisons, or whatever you like to call them.
If we want to reform young people, I could understand placing them in institutions for that purpose, but I do not believe we are doing any good by taking a young person away from his family and putting him in an institution, if the circumstances do not require a radical change for a protracted period of training. I believe children should be left with their families, if necessary on probation under the supervision of probation officers, and if that involves additional probation officers, male and female, it still ought to be done.
Do not let the House reconcile itself to the fact that because we have changed the name of Borstal to St. Patrick's, it is a suitable atmosphere into which to toss a miscellaneous group of troublesome youngsters for periods of one, two, three, six or twelve months. If we are to take children  or delinquents away from their family background, we should do it in the certain knowledge that there is no alternative, and we should then charge ourselves with the responsibility of providing facilities for adequate training so that nothing will be left undone for the child, before his return to the world, which could possibly be done to give him a chance of building himself up as a decent useful citizen.
I have a holy horror of the idea that we should accept casually in this House the principle of short-term detention for children and adolescents. It is all wrong. We must face up to the fact that when an adolescent has got into bad company and is moving in the Irish equivalent of a gang—if it has become that type of gang which begets juvenile delinquents—then a short period of incarceration in an institution like St. Patrick's may surround the incarceree with a kind of aura of romance, and unless he is sent out at the end of that short period with a prospect of recovery we are sending him straight back as a hardened heroic leader and almost as an example to the others, and we are leaving the others almost under the impression that in order to attain to his status and dignity, they must themselves be able to claim they are alumni of Borstal.
I would urge on the Minister most strenuously not to be persuaded that a system of short-term sentences for juvenile delinquents is any useful instrument in the correction of the juvenile or the adolescent. The family is the proper atmosphere in which reform can be achieved, and in the rare case where that breaks down, it is a Borstal or a reformatory charged with the responsibility, not of detention or punishment primarily, but with the obligation to reform. That involves the provision of the means to do the job and the resolution to do it in the certainty that you are doing the best that can be done in all the circumstances, if you have decided that it is right and proper that the juvenile should be taken under care for a minimum period of two years, and longer, if the circumstances affecting the reform indicate that is necessary.
 When I say adequate facilities should be available, I mean not only facilities for training, but facilities for understanding. In that connection, I want to say that I yield to none in my admiration for Brothers and religious. I believe religious are a very useful means of dealing with this problem, but when I think of a delinquent child —and I include in that category young persons suitable for detention in a reformatory—I think it is wholly wrong, and quite mistaken, to send juveniles of that age away from their families into an atmosphere where there is no feminine influence whatsoever. I know that Brothers do the best they can, but it does make a difference if there is some maternal woman there who will provide some approximation to the solicitude of maternal affection, the absence of which may have been a powerful contributory cause of the juvenile delinquency.
I assure Deputies I am not approaching this problem from the romantic angle of complete inexperience. The plain truth is that district justices do not, as a rule, send juveniles to places of detention, be they reformatories or Borstal, until they feel there is nothing else to do. The result is that the material in the reformatory and in Borstal is pretty bad. A mighty and substantial job has to be done there. By the mercy of God's providence, we here in Ireland are burdened with a microscopic problem compared with that which confronts the Government of Great Britain or the Governments of the several States of the United States. The problem here is very small. I doubt if, between reformatory and Borstal, we have more than one hundred under detention. The fact that the problem is so small affords us the opportunity of doing for them the best that can be done.
Deputies will not forget that, however exasperating the records of these juveniles may be, they are somebody's sons or somebody's daughters. Their reform and redemption is a matter of desperate concern to people just like ourselves who have known the humiliation and the hardship of seeing their children go wrong, who are obliged to confess to themselves that they have  failed them, who know all the anguish of having lost them and who are cruelly concerned to see their hope of reform realised.
The responsibility is passed over to us who are the Government of this country. We should be awakened to that responsibility and accept its obligations. When we come to face it, we must remember that, no matter what we do here, in the last analysis, the immediate burden of carrying out the prospect of reform will fall on people like the Governor or the Chief Officer and the officers of these institutions, most of whom are laymen but, lay or religious, it is they in the last analysis who must bear the heat and burden of the day.
If any Deputy is interested in the pamphlet which I quoted earlier, I recommend him to read what this ex-prisoner has to say about the Governor, the chief officer and warders of Mountjoy Jail. It is encouraging to read that, in that anonymous atmosphere, there are men who from day to day go on working in a spirit of Christian charity and kindness to help the very miscellaneous population committed to their care. The highest tribute of veracity this pamphlet can have is that when this ex-prisoner comes to speak of those with whom he came in daily contact, he has a very glowing tale to tell.
I have no clear view on the merits of parole. Most people regard it as a very desirable reform in prison administration. Prudently used, I suppose it is. My experience from living in America and my familiarity with conditions in America, such as it is, does not strongly prejudice me in favour of the system of parole. I think its operation in the United States has been a very qualified blessing and has not resulted, on the whole, in a desirable reform.
I am prepared to hope that under our different system of administration, parole may work better here. I hope it does. It is a humanitarian desire to provide for contingencies but its administration will be extremely difficult. I remember that the first time  I visited a prison, a very humane prison Governor said to me that there is one interview which in all his experience of prison administration, he had never yet become hardened to. I asked him if that was where he admitted a prisoner. “No,” he said, “you can always deal with that. It may be very difficult if it is a tragic case but it is part of our job to meet that. However, there is one interview I find almost unbearable. It is when a man is put to jail and leaves behind a wife and children. Then he gets a letter to say his wife has fallen desperately ill and there is nobody at home to look after the children. He comes up to me quite confidently and says: ‘You will have to let me home, Sir’. I have to say: ‘But you may not go home. You are serving a sentence of imprisonment. There is no provision to allow you to go home.’ It is that moment of tragedy that is perhaps the most trying of a prison governor's life —the awful realisation that there is no provision for that situation.”
Part of the penalty of going to jail is that when that disaster supervenes, the afflicted father of a normal family, whatever his failings may be, is forbidden to lend a hand. What will you do with your powers of parole? Suppose such a case arises and the prisoner comes up and says: “The wife is sick. There are seven children at home. We have never known a day's unhappiness or anxiety about the children. We always had a united home. They are waiting eagerly for me to get home again. I must go to them.” What will you say? Will you say “No”?
If I go to the Minister for Justice and say: “I know this man. He is the best man who ever lived but he goes on a ‘batter’. He went on a ‘batter’ and got himself locked up in jail. He has the best wife who ever walked and they have seven children. The wife has been removed to hospital and a neighbouring woman is looking after the seven children. If you do not let the man out, the family will have to be broken up and the children sent to an institution as there is nobody to look after them”, will the Minister parole him?
 If you accept that—and, thinking with my heart, I am all for accepting it—you must also accept that you are dealing with criminals. While these facts may be true of the exceptional case, for every true and valid case of this kind there will be three rapscallions who will keep a wife for the purpose of getting sick as soon as they go into Mountjoy. If you accept the principle that if the wife gets sick as soon as the prisoner goes in there will be plenty of sick wives of prisoners in Mountjoy. Thinking with my heart, I am all for parole but thinking with my head and recollecting what I saw happen under the parole system in America, I often wonder if it works.
I have a feeling that if you are going to let people out of jail it is better to let them out, give them a clap on the back and say: “The Minister has made up his mind to let you go. He is exercising his prerogative of mercy in turning you out but take care that you do not come back again. You may consider yourself lucky that the Minister was in a soft frame of mind and was sorry for you.” I want to hear more from the Minister to justify the introduction of the system of parole. Remember 60 per cent. of the people who are in jail serve less than three months and what, in the name of goodness, do you want to parole a man for who is in jail for three months? And if you are going to take into account the remission he can earn by his own good conduct would it not be just as well to give him a clap on the back and tell him to go home, that he has been long enough in?
Perhaps I am failing to see some aspect of this problem. I do not think the Minister has sufficiently elaborated it in his introductory speech to justify a new departure. As I say, thinking with my heart I welcome parole, but thinking with my head I am uneasy. That is one point of view. Secondly, I am wholly and convincedly opposed to any system which envisages short sentences for juveniles. That is all wrong and it will get us into seas of sorrow and will become a powerful force of corruption rather than reform. I think the Minister is not doing himself justice when he says that we have  so few prisoners on our hands that an arbitrary system of segregation is not really practicable and that he is urged by well-intentioned persons to do it for the sake of the change itself without advertence to the cost. I submit that that is an unfortunate phrase.
I think, on reflection, the Minister would wish himself included in the ranks of the much despised body of well-intentioned persons. In dealing with matters of this kind we should all be well-intentioned persons. If sometimes, in excess of zeal, to avoid the imposition of unintentional hardship on prisoners whom we are charged by Scripture to visit and comfort in their adversity and if we are sometimes moved to advocate what conservatives would regard as excessive expenditure in trying to avoid that situation, I am not ashamed to be derided as a well-intentioned person. If that be a crime, it is one to which I do not hesitate to plead guilty. But I should be glad to think that the Minister would join me in that category and reassure me when he is concluding this debate that the matters to which I have referred will have, or have had, adequate consideration and in the latter contingency I hope he will give me the information that I seek.
Mr. Norton Mr. Norton
Mr. Norton: The problem of dealing with the prisoners in our jails is basically a problem of trying to balance the over-all public interest with the necessity of acting in a fair and humane manner towards the prisoners. It is easy to advocate very generous treatment of prisoners. If you do that, you run the risk of seriously impairing the defences of the public interest. Similarly, if you take the view that the prisoner is a permanent enemy of society, you can be driven towards acting unfairly and with inhumanity towards the prisoner.
I have been visiting prisons in many countries over a long period. I have seen the conditions and the problems there and I have heard the views of those charged with prison administration. I have done the same here and I think it can be said that our prison problem is a relatively small one compared with those which confront other countries. But it is because it is a  relatively small problem and within manageable proportions and one which does not cause any great public perturbation that we should, I think, endeavour to deal with it in a manner that will give us reasonable hope that the first offender can be brought back to be a good member of society while at the same time protecting the public interest from the incorrigible offender for whom prison and the deeds which get him there have some magnetic attraction.
I think one of the difficulties, or rather one of the shortcomings, of our present prison administration is that the emphasis is too much on punishment and not sufficiently on reformation. When you get a prisoner who has spent the best part of his life, or obviously intends to spend it, in prison it is probably impossible to find any method known to human ingenuity whereby you can bring a person of that kind back to being a good member of society. Some mental disability may be responsible for that person's action; his whole family background may be a contributing factor and you might well waste a substantial amount of time trying to effect a reformation with pretty poor results. Where such a person is concerned it seems to me that detention is the only way in which you can safeguard the public interest and you cannot take a chance with the public interest in these cases unless you have some evidence that such a person when released among society again will at least conduct himself in a manner that indicates he has respect for the people in whose company he moves.
It may be that it is possible to effect reformation or at least amelioration in the conduct of such persons after long periods of trial and error and to that extent, perhaps, it is worth while continuing any reformative processes which are calculated to yield even partial results in such cases. I am concerned mainly for the first offender or, perhaps, even the second offender—where a person lapses for the second time on some relatively minor charge. Quite a considerable number of our prisoners—I think more  than 50 per cent. —find their way into our prisons for offences which do not merit punishment of more than three months and, therefore, they can be said not to have committed the heinous crimes that make headlines in the newspapers of other countries. To that extent, therefore, one must, I think, assume that their transgressions are not the transgressions of men of evil bent but that they are lapses due to one cause or another.
In many cases their downfall is due to a condition of mind and body which prevents their realising the gravity of their actions at a particular time or to the fact that they have parted for their own reasons with their normal judgment. We have to be specially concerned in their cases, not with imposing punishment which can be brutalising, but with bringing about reformation. While marking public disapproval of the action, it should be possible to make due allowance for the character of the offence and the circumstances in which it was committed. If there is evidence of early reformation on the part of a prisoner there should be some remission of the sentence even substantially above that normally allowed for good conduct.
In other words, in the case of a prisoner on whom a three months sentence has been imposed, if, as happens in most cases of first offenders, the shock of even a day's imprisonment produces a reaction which indicates that he has been taught his lesson, it is not fair to hold that person for the full normal period, namely, the full period of the sentence less the remission. We ought to deal specially with these cases and release the prisoner, on conditions if you like, on any kind of conditions that it is thought proper to impose, with the right, of course, to take him back if the authorities are not satisfied that their first judgment of him was correct. A person of that kind ought not to be put through the full process of prison sentence where the State, meaning the Governor and those administering the punishment in prisons, is satisfied that there is evidence of that person's sentence having produced the necessary  reformation and there is a reasonable prospect that he or she will be a good member of society in future.
It ought to be possible in a case of that kind to recognise that what is needed is a lecture or lectures to the prisoner concerned, or, perhaps, psychiatric treatment whilst in prison. The punishment element ought to be quite unnecessary in the sense of humiliating the prisoner because, quite obviously, he is not of a type that requires punishment in order to appreciate the ignominy of his position. The punishment aspect of imprisonment should be reserved for those who are beyond the stage of redemption from the standpoint of being able to be brought back to a recognition of what they owe to the community.
I am glad that the Minister is proposing to try the system of parole. It is worth while trying. I hope the system will be found to be satisfactory. If the system is properly administered, and if the prisoner gets adequate lessons and lectures before parole is applied to him, it ought to work satisfactorily in a country like this where there is not the long list of hard-bitten criminals such as exist in many other countries.
The segregation of prisoners in jail is important. It is a great mistake from every point of view to permit young prisoners who have lapsed for the first time to get into the company of those who are regular customers of our prisons.
Mr. Traynor Mr. Traynor
Mr. Traynor: They do not. They are never allowed to mix with that type.
Mr. Norton Mr. Norton
Mr. Norton: I understood that it was possible for young people, during the course of serving their prison sentence, to meet some hard-bitten prisoners at times.
Mr. Traynor Mr. Traynor
Mr. Traynor: No. They are segregated completely from that type of prisoner.
Mr. Norton Mr. Norton
Mr. Norton: And there is no mixing at any stage?
Mr. Traynor Mr. Traynor
Mr. Traynor: No.
Mr. Norton Mr. Norton
 Mr. Norton: Is the Minister sure of that?
Mr. Traynor Mr. Traynor
Mr. Traynor: I am certain. There are very few first offenders in prison because it is only after they have committed numerous crimes that persons find themselves in prison. When they do go there they are put into the wood yard or some place of that kind and are given the work of chopping kindling wood or that type of work and do not go into the workshops where the hardened types to whom the Deputy refers mainly do their work.
Mr. Norton Mr. Norton
Mr. Norton: Do they meet at exercise, at concerts or functions of that kind?
Mr. Traynor Mr. Traynor
Mr. Traynor: They meet at Mass or at concerts or that type of assembly but they are kept in separate groups.
Mr. Norton Mr. Norton
Mr. Norton: If it does not happen it is all right but, so far as it happens at all, it is bad that it should be allowed to happen. My main point on that is that in prison one gets first offenders or second offenders, persons who have lapsed temporarily and whose lapse is the greatest punishment that could be inflicted upon them and their families. The recollection that they have fallen in the esteem of their friends and relatives carries with it an enormous moral punishment. There are other cases—regular housebreakers, regular burglars, persons to whom larceny is an occupation, persons with bad moral records. I do not know that punishment is of much use to people with bad moral records.
I do not know that punishment is of much use to the other people I have mentioned. They serve their sentence, come out and go back again. If it is not possible to reform them the only alternative is to detain them in prison. Although the results may be relatively small it is worth endeavouring in these cases to bring about some reformation, to bring them back to the straight and narrow path even if it has to be done by special methods and by the employment of religious.
So far as long term prisoners are concerned, I understand that they do a certain amount of work at Portlaoise  prison which is the long term punishment prison. I was wondering if it would be possible to give some of the long term prisoners there training in a craft or trade which might help to rehabilitate them on their release. I do not think it would be possible to give them a complete trade in the sense of being journeymen tradesmen but it ought to be possible through the medium of the local technical schools or in some other way to give them training in occupations which might secure for them regular employment when they would be released. Many people who come out of jail after long periods of detention, having done the kind of work they have been given to do in jail, find it impossible to get any kind of work and probably drift back to a life of crime. It might be possible to teach these people a trade or skill which they could exploit at least to the extent of finding semi-skilled jobs when they are released instead of being turned adrift with no prospect of being able to find a niche for themselves in industry.
Deputy Dillon has quoted the contents of a pamphlet which was issued in the last few days by a former member of this House. I have read only parts of that pamphlet. If you are terribly enthusiastic in putting a point of view, I know how easy it is to put that point of view and perhaps not see the other side of the case. However, making all due allowances for that, there are some statements in that book which must be answered. The statements are positive and deliberate. If they are true, the situation ought to be remedied by the Minister. If they are not true, we ought to know in what respect they are not true.
For instance, a statement is made that flies fall into three or four 30-gallon pots, that they are scooped out and thrown away and the process of boiling goes on until more flies fall in, and again they are thrown out. That can be either proved or disproved. There must have been somebody in the prison cookhouse besides the writer of that pamphlet at the time he saw that and it ought to be possible to say that is true or untrue. It is not  sufficient to push it aside and say that is irresponsible propaganda. The pamphlet writer pays tribute to the Governor of the prison and to the chief warders, a tribute which, I think, from personal experience is very well deserved.
Mr. Traynor Mr. Traynor
Mr. Traynor: And cancels out the other charges he has made.
Mr. Norton Mr. Norton
Mr. Norton: That is an oversimplification of the allegations made by the person concerned. Either the flies get into the saucepans or they do not. That should be easily proved or disproved. Another statement which is worthy of mention is in regard to the food served to prisoners. I do not think we should carry punishment of prisoners to such an extent as to give them dry bread nor do I think it necessary that the meat should be boiled every time they get meat. It ought to be possible without any great expenditure to give a prisoner some variety over and above what he gets at present. You are not necessarily making him a more difficult prisoner by giving him a little more variety in his food. Instead you are probably helping to produce an understanding in his mind that he is being treated with all humanity, having regard to the fact that he has transgressed the law.
I would urge the Minister not to write off the pamphlet as of no consequence and just the outpourings of a person who is sour in society. If the statements can be proved to be untrue, well and good; the whole argument for our present prison system and its humanitarian objectives is reinforced. If, on the other hand, the pamphlet is shown to contain statements which are contrary to what we believe to be a human concept of prison administration, then adjustments are called for. However, I express no view on the rightness or otherwise of the statements made. I have no means of checking them, but they ought to be checked and they ought to be answered. If they are not true we can rejoice in that fact. If they are true at least some of them ought to be looked into and dealt  with, with a view to removing what in respect of some of them is a justifiable cause for complaint.
Mr. Loughman Mr. Loughman
Mr. Loughman: I have had the experience for a number of years of being a member of the visiting committee to the Borstal Institution formerly located in Clonmel. I have also had the experience, like many others, of being a prisoner in that institution and several other institutions, so when I speak about conditions in them it will be from two viewpoints.
Most of us who were members of the visiting committee of the Borstal came to the conclusion that many of the young people in prison there were handicapped children. I remember recently in Clonmel listening to a Dr. Stack, I think that was his name, giving a talk on handicapped children. He said that three out of every thousand children were what would be known as handicapped and that half of that number were capable of being taught in schools and consequently were capable, by proper teaching, of having their ways mended. It also came to my knowledge as a member of the Borstal visiting committee that about 75 per cent. of the young people who came to that institution were illiterate. I sometimes think they were illiterate because they were handicapped in one way or another and could not be taught as the normal child could.
I thoroughly agree with Deputy Dillon that if there is to be rehabilitation of the type of people imprisoned in a Borstal institution as it was known at that time, the term should be a long one. There is no use in sending such delinquents to an institution for two or three weeks or two or three months. The idea of the Borstal institution is to train the youngsters and to get them to see the advantage of becoming useful citizens. When they are there for only two or three months they are just punching in time until the day they are released. Our biggest difficulty towards the end of the period when the Borstal institution was in Clonmel was that there were not enough children to give them the type of training which might be useful in rehabilitating them.
 I was personally disappointed at all times with the training given but I am afraid I was unable to offer a solution. There was instruction in carpentry which was good but we also had shoemaking and tailoring which were a waste of time and energy. I came to the conclusion that shoemaking, what is called cobbling, was a finished business. What we call cobbling at the present time is mainly done by machines, not by hand with wax, leather and all the rest. As far as tailoring was concerned, they did not learn enough to become tailors or to become useful even in the matter of mending clothes. I often thought that training in some other trades should be adopted in such institutions.
When Deputy G. Boland was Minister for Justice he wanted to take a farm, even if it were several miles distant from the institution, to train the boys. He said he would be prepared to take the risk of escape from the farm. His idea was that the boys would be taught agriculture or horticulture there. That would have been a wonderful innovation for those children. I myself thought that music might be useful. Training in the use of machines would also be an excellent idea.
While the institution was located in Clonmel we had the option of recommending release if suitable employment offered. Invariably the recommendation was accepted provided the probation officer approved of the employment. A good deal of the employment offered was fictitious. The offers were made simply to get the children out. Having got out, they were allowed to revert to whatever they had been engaged in before they were committed.
The family is, of course, very important in the training of young people. Oddly enough, before the Borstal left Clonmel one of the recommendations the visiting committee made was that the children should be removed as far away as possible from their parents. We discovered, in other words, that in certain cases it was not a good thing to have the children too close to their parents and relatives. The children  were actually better off without visits from their relatives. That is one of the reasons I regretted the transfer of Borstal from Clonmel.
Statistics proved that about 75 per cent. of the inmates never went back again to Borstal. That is a wonderful record. What happened them when they left the country I do not know because no records were kept as to how they progressed elsewhere. When parents wrote saying they had a job for a boy and the job, on investigation, was found to be reasonably good the boy was released. On the other hand, there were some excellent lads in Clonmel who had no relatives of any kind and there was no means of having them released to outside employment because nobody wanted them. There was one lad who was very high in the Governor's esteem but he had to serve his full term, with, of course, remission for good conduct. When he did go out we had to rely on some of the organisations here in Dublin to look after him and see that he got a job.
There was one great difference in Borstal as compared with the prisons I was in. We used appoint our own committee for disciplinary purposes. In Borstal, as well as losing liberty, they also lose any choice with regard to those in authority over them. I think it would be a good idea if they had their own groups exercising control; it would obviate a good deal of the unpleasantness that sometimes occurs in Borstal.
The loss of liberty is really the greatest punishment. The food is excellent. In Clonmel we inspected the food regularly. We could go in at any time we liked and see how it was cooked. All this talk about flies is just so much nonsense. Even in the best run kitchens accidents can happen. Possibly an isolated incident did occur. Generally speaking, the food was excellent, properly cooked, abundant and wholesome. If anything, it was perhaps a little too abundant for lads who did not have all the exercise they would have had had they been at liberty.
 All the time in Clonmel conditions were being improved. When I went there first the boys were, perhaps, like so many slaves. The Governor came along and announced: “Visiting Justices. Any complaints?” The lads stood there in little uniform shorts, hangdog and crushed. I am not saying that there was no cause for complaint. Possibly on that first occasion they were afraid. I do not know. But none of them ever made a complaint in the early days, and I believe they could have made them.
The uniform was changed. They were provided with ordinary suits of different colours so that there would be no suggestion of a uniform. When Deputy MacEoin was Minister for Justice they were allowed to smoke. Boxing tournaments were organised. They went out for walks through the countryside in charge of one or two warders. They never gave any trouble. They were gradually beginning to realise that they were not animals. They believed the State was going to do something for them to rehabilitate them. I have never been up to St. Patrick's.
It was a cause for deep regret to us that these children were going so close to Mountjoy. I was glad to hear the Minister say that St. Patrick's should not be confused with Mountjoy because some of these youngsters thought it a wonderful thing to be coming out of Mountjoy or going into Mountjoy. I have actually seen a lad do tough things in order that he might be sent into the criminal prison. At that time some of them were so bad that when we asked them would they do these things again, inevitably they said they would, and offered no excuse for doing what they did.
I believe that all young lads in prison should be treated as handicapped children. Each one of them when first admitted should be examined by a psychiatrist, or some person of that description, and should not be treated as a criminal. We made a recommendation, for instance, that when a child or young person was convicted three times within a  short period, he should be sent to Borstal. We felt such a young person was just beginning on a career of crime and that sending him to Borstal for two or three years might break him of the bad habit he was developing. Sentencing him to a month or six weeks in prison three times in succession would not achieve that, because, by the time he had served his third sentence, he had usually become a hardened criminal, and we felt he would get proper treatment during a couple of years in Borstal.
Since this is the only opportunity I shall have, I should like to say that I always found the prison warders and Governors interested in the lads, and very happy when they could report to our Committee that the young people in their care had behaved well since our last visit. They were always anxious to secure concessions for them and were always inclined to do everything they could for them. I think there were three Ministers in charge of the Department during the period of which I speak, and all of them were only too happy at any time to adopt any suggestion which we made which might be reckoned to be helpful.
Returning to the question of handicapped children, I remember one occasion when we got in six young prisoners all together. One of them happened to be a lad from Dublin who killed somebody else with a knife and the other five were just habitual offenders. The very minute these six lads came before us, it was perfectly obvious that the lad who used the knife was not an habitual criminal. In a fit of temper, he had used a knife and killed somebody but, on the other hand, the type the others were was perfectly obvious and the only conclusion I could come to was that they also were of the handicapped children type. The best recommendation I could make to the Minister is that these offenders should be regarded as handicapped children and should be examined by a psychiatrist, and the authorities should be guided by such a person as to what might be done. I  make that recommendation because I have met doctors, who did both temporary and permanent duty in Borstal, and they considered that was the most practical thing that could be done. It is my opinion, too.
Mr. D. Costello Mr. D. Costello
Mr. D. Costello: The Bill which we are considering deals most inadequately with one of our serious social problems, namely, the treatment and care of juvenile offenders. Our present system of dealing with juvenile offenders and caring for them is pitifully inadequate and I regret the Minister has not taken the opportunity, offered to him by this Bill, of bringing in some most needed reform. I do not think it is a wise decision to put off the reforms which are so vitally necessary until some time in the long distant future when a comprehensive piece of codification, law reform and prison legislation is introduced. Rather than wait for such a comprehensive code, I should be glad if the Minister would take a suitable opportunity in the immediate future to deal with matters which have not been dealt with in the legislation before us today.
I am concerned primarily and principally in the remarks I have to make with the problem of the juvenile offender, and I wish to state categorically that our present legal system dealing with the juvenile offender is inadequate and needs to be reformed. Its administration also requires very serious overhaul. As Deputies are aware, the problem is divided into two parts by our legislation, the problem of the young person, the child offender under 16, and that of the youthful offender over 17. In this piece of legislation, we are dealing only with one part of the major problem. We are dealing with only a very small aspect of that one part of the problem and I should have liked the Minister to have taken some more trouble and care over the presentation of this legislation and dealt more thoroughly with all aspects of juvenile delinquency which could be dealt with by legislation.
I am thinking of the problems that are raised at the present time for the courts dealing with the child offender.  As Deputies know, when child offenders come before district justices, the justices are very frequently placed in a most invidious position. They are faced with the problem of a child offender who they realise would not benefit by being sent to an industrial school or reformatory but in respect of whom there is no alternative. This arises not only in the case of normal children but also in the case of subnormal and mentally afflicted children and, as Deputy Loughman pointed out, in the case of Borstal institutions, it does happen that a district justice has to send children who are mentally subnormal to an industrial school, knowing that they should get proper and adequate treatment, psychiatric treatment and specialised nursing care.
We in this country have no proper system for dealing with the subnormal, mentally-handicapped child and that is something which should be dealt with immediately as a matter of urgent social reform. Under the present system, children who are mentally retarded are sent to industrial schools where they do not get the proper care they need; the position is that we have a totally inadequate system of psychiatric treatment and care for these young offenders. In a rather shallow fashion, it is sometimes fashionable to criticise modern advances in psychiatric medicine. There can be no doubt that a great many of the young offenders who come before the courts would benefit considerably—and society itself would benefit—from psychiatric treatment. The present legislative set-up and the present services available are totally inadequate to deal with this aspect of the problem. Powers should be taken to see that proper psychiatric treatment is available for youthful offenders and that special institutions are established to deal with children who are psychologically deranged or mentally retarded and who would benefit from specialised treatment.
One of the matters which I think should have been dealt with in this legislation is the problem which faces the district justice who has no alternative  but to send a child to an industrial school and who has no means of sending him for even a limited period. The district justice has at present no discretion as to the length of the sentence fee will impose on the young offender. For these young child offenders, there should be a special short-term institution for corrective treatment where, in suitable cases, the district justice concerned would be able to send them rather than to an industrial school for a period up to the time when the child reaches the age of 16, as is the present situation.
Deputy Loughman referred to the problem with which we are dealing only in a very minor way in this legislation—the problem of the youthful offender between the age of 16 and 21. There is one minor matter of legislative reform which I think the Minister should have included in this piece of legislation. At present the circuit criminal court has the power of sending the child to the Borstal institution, and I think the power of imposing Borstal sentence should be given to the district justice where he has such jurisdiction to deal with summary offences. But the main problem with which we are dealing, the problem of Borstal training, is one which, I think, is not being adequately dealt with by the Government in this legislation.
The development in recent years has been significant and regrettable. The development, as Deputy Loughman pointed out, has been to take away the Borstal from Clonmel and bring it to a wing of Mountjoy Prison. It is regrettable that what is now to be known as “St. Patrick's” and what has been known as “St. Patrick's” for some time is, in fact, part of a wing of Mountjoy Prison. The Minister, I think, admits in his opening statement that this is not desirable but he says he is not prepared to ask the Government for the money necessary to build an institution, in a semi-rural area. I regret that decision very much indeed. He said the cost would be well into six figures. Whatever the sum would be, I think it would be money well spent. We are dealing with human lives. We are dealing mainly with young boys whose whole future may be  conditioned and coloured by what happens to them when they are getting this Borstal training. It is regrettable that the Minister has decided not to ask the Government to see that a proper institution is provided for boys between the ages of 16 and 21 who are committed for Borstal training.
There can be no doubt that the present change from Clonmel to Mountjoy Prison has not been for the good of the boys concerned and that a stigma attaches to the boys as a result of being in Mountjoy Prison, even though they are in a separate part of it. While it is true they are in a separate wing away from the main criminals detained there, there is evidence — and I should like to have the Minister's comment on it — that in fact the segregation between, the two parts is not as complete as he would appear to indicate to us. There is evidence to show that in fact the boys do mix from time to time with the hardened criminals both in the hospital, for example, and in the kitchens. I should be glad if the Minister could reassure us in the House whether that is so or not.
But apart from this development by which the Borstal has been moved from Clonmel to Mountjoy Prison, there is the development, which will be strengthened by the provisions of this Bill, of mixing the short-term juvenile offenders with the long-term Borstal trainees. I do not think this is a good development. Since the move from Clonmel to Mountjoy Prison, the Minister has exercised the powers given to him under previous legislation by which he can transfer a boy doing a prison sentence to Borstal training. The result has been that a great number of the short-term offenders have been transferred from the prison proper of Mountjoy to the Borstal part of Mountjoy and you have in the Borstal training college in Mountjoy a great number of what are termed “short-termers” with the long-term trainee undergoing Borstal training. That movement will be accelerated under the provisions of this Bill. I do not think it is a wise movement from the point of view of the boys undergoing Borstal training.
 The boys sentenced to Borstal training are those of a more hardened type who require a very special type of training and supervision and it is generally more long-term. It is not good for them that they should be in contact with these “short-termers”. It is not good for the institution that it has to deal not only with these boys undergoing longer periods of training but also with the other boys under 21 who are serving short-term prison sentences. I should like to see a proper segregation of the two types. It is desirable that there should be a separate institution for boys under 21 who are serving short-term prison sentences and who are not being sentenced to Borstal training.
There is a double problem here — a problem of the boy who is serving a short-term sentence and who should not be with adult criminals and the problem of the boy doing Borstal training who should not be in the same institution as the youthful offender serving a short-term sentence. To my mind, the answer to this problem is to be found in establishing a proper institution for Borstal training in what the Minister has described as “semirural surroundings”. It is bad that the boys are kept in the city of Dublin. It would be preferable for them to be outside, but not too far from the city. It is extremely bad for them that they are in the environment of Mountjoy Prison.
As I said earlier, it is to be regretted that the Minister has not sought from his colleagues in the Government authority to spend money, whatever it may be, in establishing a proper institution for Borstal training. It would then be possible, if this move were made, to use the wing. If so desired, it could be made available in Mountjoy prison for these short-term offenders who should not be mixed with the adult criminals and who should be dealt with separately from those who are undergoing Borstal training.
With respect to those boys also, there is a great need for the psychiatric treatment to which Deputy Loughman referred. The problems involved in dealing with boys who are  offenders and undergoing Borstal training are very great indeed. I think a tribute should be paid to those who assisted in the development of their training, not only to the staffs of the Borstal institutions but also, as the Minister properly pointed out, to the visiting committee and to the welfare workers who are assisting in this important work.
The fact is that the problem with which we are dealing is part of a larger problem. The rate of juvenile crime has been steadily increasing. In fact, close on 40 per cent. of all the offenders who come before the courts are under 21 years. The reasons for this rise in juvenile crime are many and varied. It is very hard to see how we can tackle adequately the problem of juvenile crime when we have unemployment at over 40,000 in the age group 14 to 19 — unemployment of over 40,000 young people who are neither employed nor getting any education. If we have figures of that dimension, it is not to be wondered at that we have a rising rate of juvenile delinquency.
Although it does not arise on the Second Reading of this Bill, I should like to say that one of the strongest arguments for raising the school leaving age is to stop this dreadful scourge of unemployment at such a youthful age and to assist in controlling the rate of juvenile delinquency by doing so.
I should like to say that the problems with which we are dealing are not of a political nature. They are not matters which concern one Party more than another. They are matters which should concern and do concern, I believe, Deputies from every part of this House. I feel that there might be something to be gained if a committee were established to endeavour to find out what improvements could be made in our present penal code — a committee that would not drag on its deliberations for a great number of years but one which would be required to report in a very short time.
As I said at the outset of my remarks, there are a number of legislative  changes which could be made without any great difficulty and which would considerably improve our present system. Apart from the framework in which the treatment and care of juvenile offenders have to be worked, there is the provision of the personnel and the provision of the institutions themselves to fit into the system.
The matters we are dealing with are matters of urgency. They involve human lives and human souls. It seems to me it is a responsibility which this House should face up to. If it means providing £100,000 or £200,000 for the erection of a new institution; if it means providing for extra psychiatric and nursing treatment, it would be money which this House would do well to provide, in my opinion. The results from up-to-date psychological research and the results from up-to-date methods of training in other countries have proved their worth. We are still operating a very antiquated system and the sooner it is reformed, the better it will be for society.
Mr. P.J. Burke Mr. P.J. Burke
Mr. P.J. Burke: I welcome the humane approach of the Minister in this Bill. The problem with which we are dealing is one which concerns every public representative and every citizen. What are we to do in regard to juvenile crime? Some juveniles get a first, second and third chance of making good but yet they relapse into crime. We should be as humane as possible in regard to people sent to prison. We should endeavour to prevent them embarking upon a life of crime when they are released. A more severe punishment was suggested in connection with certain types of crime. I believe that by helping the prisoners, you will get the best results. Our aim should not be to drive those people further along the road to crime and make hardened criminals of them.
It is the responsibility of the State, especially in the case of juveniles, to do everything possible to train and assist them. The object should be so to equip them that they will lead a better life when they come out of prison. They should be shown that a life of crime does not pay and that  their criminal actions will lead to their being in prison continuously.
I agree with those who said that we have not adequate facilities for training such juveniles. I do not think our Borstal institutions are adequate at all. We should have a proper school in which a trained psychiatrist would be employed and where juveniles could be examined and graded from the point of view of intelligence. You will always encounter the hardened criminal but then there is some good in everybody. I believe that by proper training and advice prisoners can be brought back from a life of crime. These are serious matters which concern all of us. People must be protected from criminals, but directly the State sentences a man and sends him to prison it is the duty of the State to do everything possible to reform that individual.
I believe we have a long way to go in this matter and while the present Minister has been most humane in his approach he cannot wave a magic wand and achieve results overnight. I believe, as I say, we have a long way to go to achieve what should be achieved and to train these individuals, let them be juveniles or adults. Many a man found himself in prison, and many a woman and many a youngster, too, through bad company. They were not criminals but they found themselves in prison. The more humane we are the better and if there is anything good in the individual he will react favourably. If he cannot react to kindness or to an educational system adopted by the prison authorities and by the Department of Justice, his case is hopeless. If we can make good citizens of a large percentage of those who appear before the courts and undergo a term of imprisonment, the State will have achieved something. On the other hand, if a juvenile or an adult is sentenced to a term of imprisonment and becomes a hardened criminal and repeats his crimes over and over again, the State has failed because it has not turned that man from a career of crime.
I know that the expenses of the  State are fairly high but nevertheless money spent in this regard would be money well spent; the more humane we are and the more education we can give young people the better. Above all we should have segregation and we should have the services of a psychiatrist. As far as juvenile delinquency is concerned, I do not believe the children involved are normal. Children guilty of abnormal and vicious acts are not normal and hence there is an urgent need for training. There is an urgent need to see what can be done for them. These are the problems facing us as a young State. We must provide segregation for young prisoners, and old prisoners too, especially first offenders. Segregation is also necessary amongst the different types of offenders. Bad habits acquired by youngsters at an early age will continue throughout their lives.
At this stage, I must pay tribute to the Governor and the staff of Mountjoy Prison. On occasions I worked with the Governor on committees and I never met a more humane man in his approach to every single person under his charge. His anxiety is to see that every prisoner leaving Mountjoy is rehabilitated in ordinary life through advice, encouragement and every other means at his disposal. We are lucky to have such humane men holding public office.
I also welcome the parole system as I like to see a man getting a chance. The just man falls seven times a day and I suppose we all fall sometimes. It is up to us to try to make life better for society but we have to protect society against criminals who commit offences day after day. Again I repeat that the humane approach is the best approach. I should like, in conclusion, to compliment the Minister on the work he is doing.
Mr. Sherwin Mr. Sherwin
Mr. Sherwin: I am very interested in this Bill because I have had certain prison experiences myself. I was never a criminal but I was in prison in Mountjoy amongst criminals. I was a political prisoner during the Civil War. As a result of a Commando raid in which I took part I was tried by a courtmartial but when the Civil  War was over they tried me again and sentenced me to twelve months amongst criminals in Mountjoy, so at least I have the experience of having mixed with criminals. I listened to their hopes, their plots and their plans. I know human nature and, although these incidents occurred some years ago, human nature does not change.
There are different types of criminals. There is the major criminal, the fellow who wants to achieve fame and riches by means of a short cut. He is not concerned with your humanitarian approach. He is certain that when he gets out he will do a better job the next time. There is the petty criminal who feels that he did the job the wrong way on the last occasion. Those were the types with whom I mixed in Mountjoy. Then there are the young fellows, and perhaps the young girls, who are influenced by the other types and who find themselves in trouble. There is the type of criminal also who likes to enjoy the good things of life and who achieves that end by taking other people's property. You will always have them and the law will have to be tough to deal with such people. These fellows with a criminal bent can morally justify their actions. They say that the other fellows are doing it. In one of last Sunday's English newspapers I read of a famous American criminal who was asked if he would commit his crimes all over again and he replied: “Yes, but I would make certain that I got a licence”. That is the mentality of those people. They believe that society steals and they claim that they can justify their actions. Perhaps there is some truth in it. Society is not innocent; do not worry about that. Society “hooks” just as much——
Captain Giles Captain Giles
Captain Giles: But they are not caught.
Mr. Sherwin Mr. Sherwin
Mr. Sherwin: Sometimes they are caught. There is nothing much you can do about those people. Whether society “hooks” or not there have to be some laws. We must live. It can be argued that half the people with money robbed it at some time and there is some truth in that. Up to 100  years ago, the nationalists in the north held that their land was stolen. They were always trying to get it back and they looked for a chance to rebel and take the land back. Times have eased since then and I do not think they are still trying. They probably cannot prove their title.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle Cormac Breslin
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I am afraid the Deputy is getting away from the Bill.
Mr. Sherwin Mr. Sherwin
Mr. Sherwin: I do not think I am, Sir. I want to deal with the whole question of crime and its cause. I am pointing out that there is a class of society we shall never convert and, therefore, there must be laws to deal with them. With regard to the other type of criminal the Minister has in mind, and for whom he wants power of parole, I fully agree that the Minister should have such power because it is my experience that in every class of society and in every group, there is leadership. There is some fellow who leads the others, whether it is only breaking windows or stealing apples. Someone is responsible and the others are led.
I believe there should be segregation and that the Minister should have power to parole those who he believes or has evidence to show are not the criminal type. It would be most unjust to keep such people in prison, even though to the justices they may all be the same. Perhaps there was not sufficient evidence to prove the differential between one of the accused and the others. Time may prove that differential and the Minister should, therefore, have those powers.
In my opinion, apart from the fact that there are people who are bent on a short cut to fame and riches, and apart from petty criminals, there are those who steal for economic reasons. It has been stressed here by other speakers that unemployment is a cause of crimes and it has been mentioned that the Minister is lucky in having such a limited prison population. The Minister can thank emigration for that because, whether we like it or not, we must accept that economic reasons are responsible for  much crime. The easy way out is across the Channel which saves the Minister from having double the prison population.
There are other reasons, apart from economic reasons and apart from unemployment. Society, as I know it, is a closed shop and that has a lot to do with people going despairingly into a life of crime. You cannot get into a trade unless you are on the union files. I know a man who is a printer——
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle Cormac Breslin
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Minister is not responsible for those matters.
Mr. Sherwin Mr. Sherwin
Mr. Sherwin: I am pointing out that people turn to crime——
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle Cormac Breslin
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Deputy is discussing crime, rather than the treatment of offenders which is relevant to the Bill.
Mr. Sherwin Mr. Sherwin
Mr. Sherwin: We come here and talk, but if we understood the problem better, we might be able to do more about converting people. With regard to segregation, I believe the hardened type, the type with the bent to which I have referred, should not be allowed to associate with the type, as I say, who are very often influenced into crime. Only a year or so ago, it was reported in the Press that there was a mutiny in one of our industrial schools, the school at Daingean. I know the reason for that, because I know the facts.
Some tough people, the leader type to which I have referred, were allowed to associate with the rest and it was not until they were removed that there was peace in the institution. That is why I say there should be segregation. People should be appointed to watch for those who are inclined to be troublesome and they should then be removed. If that were done, the Minister, or those appointed by him, might go a long way towards converting the rest.
I am prepared to deal with the whole subject but the Chair says we are concerned only with the treatment of crime. The Minister should segregate  these people and keep them segregated. I would suggest to the Minister that he should encourage prisoners to study. If he wants to encourage them to study, he could offer a little further remission, and in that way they might be enabled perhaps to make a better go of life, when they come out. Remissions go a long way with prisoners and I believe that without them there would be mutinies day and night. It is with remission of sentences that prisons are kept in order and, therefore, there should be further remissions to encourage the prisoners to study and to cultivate some vocation or other. It is a well-known fact that after leaving industrial schools where the study of music is cultivated, a number of young people have found good jobs in life. I know quite a number of them. These people need encouragement and the best way to do that is to offer further remissions.
If I were allowed to speak on the whole subject I might speak for an hour, but I am not. As I said before, society is a closed shop. If it were not so closed, there might not be so many crimes.
Captain Giles Captain Giles
Captain Giles: While I agree prison reform is good, I think this is about the worst time to introduce it, when crime has never been at a more alarming level and when no one is safe in the city of Dublin or any of the other cities. I agree that the Minister means well but there is a time for everything and I do not think this House should allow its heart to rule instead of its head.
So far as prison life is concerned, I am quite satisfied that Mountjoy, our chief prison, is a convalescent home and not a prison at all. It is a place where people rest until they come out and commit another crime and go back in again. There were many reforms in prisons 30 or 40 years ago, and rightly so. I am not a hard man but I believe society must be protected. Society which earns its living honestly must be protected against those who break the law.
There is a minority of people who are dangerous, low and dirty, and society must be protected against them.
 Criminals must go to prison — there is no question about that. If they behave themselves in prison, they may get a remission, but if they come out and break the rules again, they must be given the full severity of the law. That is the position in any Christian country and it is the position here. I do not think we should fall over ourselves to have prison reforms at the present time when there is so much looting and plundering. That does not happen because people are hungry. It happens because their home life is rotten and I think the parents are more to be blamed than anyone else. There is no doubt that a vast number of these criminals, whether young or middle-aged, are rascals. They want to be converted one way or another. You will not convert them by patting them on the head. Society is entitled to see that justice is done. We have too many juvenile trouble-makers in this country. There is a wave of crime in Dublin the like of which we have not had for the past fifty years.
We are trying to reform the law and to give these people as easy a time as possible. Surely that is wrong. I am not against prison reform in normal days. I believe that segregation in our prisons is good. We should not have certain types of criminals mixing with other types. Old “hoboes” and habitual criminals must be kept to themselves. First and second offenders may have been, and may still be, rather decent people and, if given a chance, may yet make good. Therefore, they should not have to mix with old “hoboes” and habitual criminals who will have nothing but a very bad effect on them. That is not class distinction. It is justice.
I spent many days and months in prison. I know as much about prison life as anybody else. I have had experience of Irish and foreign prisons. One of the hardest prisons in the British Isles is located in Perth. I did twelve months in it. At that time, criminal lunatics mixed with the Irish prisoners. I know what these criminal lunatics were like. They were dangerous and dirty. Nobody should have to mix with them. It is the same in  this country. There is a small minority of persons in Mountjoy, and some even outside it, who should not be allowed to mix with society until they make good. If an ordinary person mixes with them the danger is that in the course of a few short weeks or months his mind becomes upset and his outlook altered. By hook or by crook, the very undesirable element endeavour to unsettle him and make him one of themselves. Therefore, segregation is most important.
While I was in prison, I learned many things in connection with life there. In Mountjoy at that time and in the penal settlements across the water the conditions were a disgrace. You were given a suit of clothes and you had to wear it whether it fitted you or not. If the legs of the trousers were too short or too long you had to put up with it. You were given a pair of boots and no matter what your size you just had to make do with them. The clothes were a disgrace at that time. I am happy to say that there is no such thing as that today.
I remember that when we Irish prisoners had to mix with other people we were heartily ashamed of our clothes. We are a clean people by nature. We like to be clean. Unfortunately, our clothes were a mass of vermin so much so that we could not sleep at night. I do not believe that that is the position now but if it still obtains it should be terminated. We had to suffer all those things. I am trying to show the reforms that have taken place in the course of the past thirty or forty years.
I want to emphasise that I am not against prison reform. For instance, I believe there should be an open air life for prisoners. I know what it was like in the old days when we had to sit in our cells picking oakum. The cell was about five feet by six or nine feet. Sometimes we had to tease dusty, dirty hair. By the end of the day your throat and nose were stuffed up and generally you felt in such a mess that the position was pretty awful. We fought against all that and then we were put out on a farm of three hundred acres with the criminal lunatics. We had to look  after 130 acres and the criminal lunatics had to look after the remainder. Ten men were tied to a plough. We ploughed that farm which was a penal settlement in Britain. We ploughed the same as horses ploughed. We broke with that, too. We refused to continue to do it and we won.
An open air life is the best thing for those people. To keep a man in a cell teasing hair and picking oakum is dirty and depressing. Give him an open air life. If a man is in a cell and is occupied with those dirty jobs he will come out a worse criminal than when he was put in. I urge that very little if any work should be done in the prison cells. Give the prisoners all the open air they possibly can have. It is desirable to have a farm of land attached to the prison. Put the prisoners out to horticulture, agriculture, and so on, and you will improve them immensely. That is where they should be.
Political and agrarian trouble-makers should not be sent to Mountjoy. They are a society altogether different from the tough and the thief. You will always have political and agrarian trouble. I do not think they should be mixed with the ordinary criminal in Mountjoy. Perhaps, they are not.
For a long number of years I have known a good deal about the officers and the Governor in Mountjoy. He was a pal of mine and did prison himself. He is a humane man. I do not think a prisoner in Mountjoy for the past twenty years would say he did not get a fair deal. The Governor is a man who knew the inside of a prison as well as the outside and he has the humane touch in life.
I believe in parole for a good type of prisoner on his first or second offence. If he makes good, all the better. I am at one with Deputy Dillon, Deputy D. Costello and the other Deputies who spoke about the juveniles. There is no use putting a juvenile boy in for two, three or four months, thinking he will reform. You will make a proper “hobo” of him. Put him in for about two years for good schooling. If he got nothing  but proper schooling and proper Christian doctrine under the right type of instructor I believe he would make good. If a boy starting out on the wrong road got such an opportunity of schooling and Christian doctrine instruction for a period of about two years he would be bound to make good afterwards. If a boy of 15, 16 or 17 years of age starting on a life of crime receives the treatment I have just mentioned I believe he will come out satisfied and will make good. He is the last man who will try to break the law again.
Be slow to throw your arms around the toughs and to do too much for them. Some prisoners regard Mountjoy as a convalescent home. Our present prison system is not severe. I talked to some inmates of Mountjoy and they said it was far better than when they were at home and that they were as happy there as outside as the only thing they lacked was their freedom. Too much prison reform in a dangerous period as at present is not wise. We have far too much pilfering, looting and criminal activities to think about prison reform. Let us consider it when times are good and not when there is a wave of crime.
Let us not allow our hearts to govern us in this matter. Let us use our heads as well as our hearts and do justice to the people who are not criminals and who are living decent, honest, clean lives and working hard to put a few pounds together to help their children. Sometimes a thug will come along with a cosh, a stick, a bicycle chain or a broken bottle and smash an unfortunate individual and ruin him for life in body, mind and pocket. There is too much hooliganism going on in this country at present.
The Minister ought to go slow about prison reform because Mountjoy is not a prison at all to some of those people but a convalescent home. Some people there are having a right good time. That should not be. All that is wrong is that they cannot get out. If they do get out they will go on a wave of crime again. They say: “We have the wireless, television, concerts, pictures. We get out on Sunday and talk  to one another. We can move from cell to cell. We see no difference between Mountjoy and outside. When we are at home we have to work whereas in here we have nothing to do. Why should we come out at all?”
There are two sides to it. If you make prison life too easy you will have plenty of criminals; if you leave prison life plain and straight, in conformity with the needs of society, so that a man who commits a crime is punished for it and serves the full sentence for his crime, you are doing justice.
Dáil Éireann 183 Criminal Justice Bill, 1960—Second Stage (Resumed).