WHILE the average cost of a staffed prison space has decreased by €5,154, the Irish Prison Service splashed out €4,199 on buying footballs for prisoner use at Portlaoise Prison Campus.
According to figures revealed by Minister for Justice and Equality Alan Shatter, €3,851 was spent on purchasing footballs at the Midlands Prison during 2011, an increase of €2,459 on the figure of €1,392 for 2010.
And there was also €348 expenditure on footballs at the neighbouring Portlaoise Prison, a decrease of €468 on the €816 spent during 2010.
Total expenditure on sports equipment at Portlaoise Prison Campus amounted to €83,136 (Midlands Prison €65,745 up by €7,795 from 2010 & Portlaoise €17,391 down by €15,385 from the previous year).
The nett increase in expenditure on footballs at the campus between 2010 and ‘11 amounted to €1,991 (€4,199 in 2011 as opposed to €2,208 in 2010), with a nett decrease in expenditure on sports equipment of €7,590 (€83,136 in 2011 compared with €90,726 the year before.)
Spokesperson for the Irish Prison Service John McDermott outlined that there was no specific reason for the fluctation in sports equipment expenditure.
“Depending on the amount of use a threadmill or weights machine gets, it may need to be replaced and new equipment is purchased. This obviously varies from year to year.
“And when footballs go out into the yard and maybe get caught in or damaged by wire they too have to replaced,” he said.
Minister for Shatter suggested there were significant benefits to be gained from involvement in physical education in the prison environment.
“It affords prisoners the opportunity to take control of their physical well-being, with the potential knock-on effect of increasing their motivation and confidence to tackle other identified issues such as substance abuse and taking up education or work / training opportunities,” he said.