A visit to a prison can offer a lot of perspective on the state of Irish society today. As part of 131 CSPE Action Project, we visited Limerick Prison and got to see first-hand what the consequences were for those who decided to live outside the law.
Limerick Prison is an imposing and intimidating place. The wet weather on the day only sought to reinforce this. From the cold, austere, pre-victorian entrance to the up-to-date new wing recently opened, it is somewhere that no-one would like to spend more than a few minutes, never mind a few months.
We were welcomed by a senior member of the staff, who, after a very informative and in many ways, eye-opening presentation, gave us a tour of the facility. First up, was the old wing, part of which is still in use. It is the oldest operation prison wing in Europe, where the inmates are still forced to ‘slop out’. The cells are smaller than we expected, again showing that the consequences of life outside the law, when caught, are tough.
We went to the newer wing, which, although the cells were again small, is still a formidable and intimidating place. We also got a tour of the medical and leisure facilities, which became the topic of many people’s murmurs, where one of the groups was tempted to ask “why do they have a nicer gym than we do?”!
We left Limerick Prison both enthralled, yet in some ways, suitably appalled. It was an experience we will never forget, nor will want to repeat. The prison system is a shocking place for anyone to contemplate spending any amount of time in. In that respect, we can say the visit was a complete success. I think we’ll be sticking to the straight and narrow.