Christmas in prison is a “pretty dark and depressing day”, a former Governor of Mountjoy has said.
For most people, Christmas is a time spent relaxing with family and close friends.
But for inmates, deprived of their liberty and loved ones, prison on Christmas day can be the saddest of times.
“It’s a very depressing place,” John Lonergan told The Pat Kenny Show.
“Prison is a very depressing place at the best of time but certainly on Christmas day, it is a particularly depressing day.
“That is fairly natural - the vast numbers of people in prison don’t want to be there - and it is a time of the year when people do think of their families and wish to be with their families.
“That is when prison really hits home on a day like that, when you realise as a prisoner that you’re not at home and you’re not with your family and the reason you’re not there is generally your own fault.
“It’s a pretty dark and depressing day.”
In the old days, it used to be compulsory to go to Mass if you were a Catholic. That rule has long since been struck out and now only a few attend the service.
Really, the only noticeable difference is the special meal inmates find dollopped onto their plates.
Breakfast would be “enhanced” and ham or turkey would be served for dinner.
Back in the day, many prisoners were temporarily released but that tradition has increasingly fallen by the wayside.
“Going back 20, 30 years a very significant number of people were released at Christmas and the guidelines were pretty generous in terms of who was eligible to apply for Christmas parole,” Mr Lonergan added.
“Open centres closed down completely… So, you had 400, 500 people who were released in those days.
“Over the last 20 years, the restrictions in terms of the guidelines have been reducing, reducing and getting more and more restrictive.
“Last year, around 70 to 80 people were released for short periods of time over Christmas and the longest was about five days.”
Main image: A Christmas tree is situated on a hallway of the juvenile prison. Photo: Rainer Jensen