Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Gordon Deegan

The Irish Prison Service (IPS) spent almost €100,000 last year to make sure inmates were on top of the latest plot twists in Netflix’s hit drama, Bridgerton and in the race for the Premier League title on Sky Sports.

New figures released by the IPS in response to a Freedom of Information request show that the IPS last year spent €96,479 on Sky and Netflix subscriptions and on installation costs.

The IPS spent €86,294 on Sky and multi-channel packages and this represented a 15 per cent increase on the 2019, €74,834 spend on Sky and multi-channel packages for the prison network.

According to the IPS FOI unit “all prisoners have some access to digital TV. Digital TV is provided to prisoners in recreational areas and in their cells”.

In addition to the SKY spend, the IPS last year spent €1,270 in subscription charges to Netflix and this is on top of the €8,915 cost to install the infrastructure for Netflix across 12 prisons.

The IPS moved to install Netflix, that allows in-mates be entertained by the likes of the Queen’s Gambit, Call My Agent and Narcos, came in response to the increased restrictions placed on prisoners due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In addition, the IPS spent €293,754 on the purchase of 2,117 TVs in 2020.

Isolated from society

A spokeswoman for the IPS stated on Wednesday that “prisoners serving sentences are very much isolated from society and access to televisions, radios and newspapers are important media sources to keep prisoners connected with society and their communities especially during the current pandemic”.

She said: “It is important to note that following the introduction of TV’s, the incidents of self-harm and suicide dramatically dropped in our prisons.”

The spokeswoman stated that “in addition, prisons generally maintain a stock of TVs to meet demand as it arises.”

“It is important to note, TVs installed in over 2,500 prison cells suffer from extensive wear and tear representing the usage of same with approximately 9,000 committals to prisons last year as well as suffering damage from time to time.”

“When there is deliberate damage to a TV by a prisoner, the prisoner may be subject to disciplinary action in accordance with the Prison Rules and liable to contribute towards the cost of repairs. The unit cost of a TV in a prison cell is approximately €130 and is a standard model television.”

The spokeswoman added “With the onset of the pandemic in March 2020 the IPS implemented additional infection control measures such as suspending physical visits and where necessary reduced out of cell time, the provision of Netflix as an in cell activity has proved beneficial to the prisoners during times of additional restrictions.”

There is no shortage of prison based drama on Netflix to keep the prisoners entertained including shows such as Orange is the New Black, Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons, Happy Jail, Prison Break, The Inmate, Jailbirds, Prisoners and Prison Playbook.

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