The prison trap

The prison trap

Joe Humphreys

        Last Updated: Saturday, September 14, 2013, 06:38

It’s Monday morning and Dr Conor O’Neill is in a busy district court on the east coast, waiting for one of his patients to be called. Young men are being remanded for public-order offences, uninsured drivers are being fined, and an assault case is sent forward to the circuit court.

Then a tall, thin man, unshaven and with a yellowish pallor, is led up from the cells. Adam – it’s not his real name: O’Neill stresses patient confidentiality – was charged with breach of the peace. He had been sleeping rough and was causing a nuisance by shouting at passers-by. “Most people say ‘sorry’ to the Garda, but this guy is unwell or a bit paranoid, so the conversation can become a bit heated,” says O’Neill.

As the judge hears submissions, Adam stands silently, his arms dangling. He wears a muddy anorak and his trousers are ripped above the ankles. His scuffed runners suggest someone used to walking the streets.

This was Adam’s first time in custody, and when O’Neill had seen him at his clinic in Cloverhill Prison a month earlier, the forensic psychiatrist had quickly recognised that Adam didn’t belong there.

His is far from an isolated case. All over the State, people are falling foul of the law because of behaviour arising from mental illness. And very often they end up in custody, either at the Central Mental Hospital, in Dundrum in south Dublin, which is Ireland’s only specialist forensic mental-health facility, or at mainstream prisons where, according to repeated inspection reports, their mental and physical health deteriorates….

Read whole article here:

A positive outcome for Adam. Can that be said for so many others like him?
This series is supported by the Mary Raftery Journalism Fund
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