The Governor of the Midlands Prison Portlaoise has opened up about the ‘constant and never ending’ battle against drugs in the jail.
Speaking ahead of tonight’s first episode of the Virgin Media documentary ‘Inside Ireland’s Biggest Prison: True Lives’, Ethel Gavin, the country’s only female Governor, said the problem of drug use is something they continue to aggressively tackle.
She said: “It’s a constant battle when you have a cohort of prisoners who are highly motivated to get access to drugs.
“You have users, abusers, people who are making money but when you walk around Midlands Prison, thankfully that’s not what you see.
“The undercurrent is there. It’s no different than what it would be in any small community.”
Speaking about the upcoming documentary, Ethel said she hopes that people who watch the show will be educated about what actually goes on in a prison.
She said there is a jovial nature between inmates and prison officers, something which colleagues in Britain, Belgium and France have found very interesting.
She said: “We have to engage with the public to stop the perceptions of prisoners and prison staff.
“I think it’s important people realise that prisoners are people too and when they’re back in the community, they could be anyone’s neighbour.
“We encourage banter between prisoners and staff so it’s not a case of ‘us and them’.”
The first episode will give the public an insight into day-to-day life in the prison, including preparations for the annual Christmas panto.
In tonight’s show, Governor Gavin reveals she doesn’t judge inmates on the crimes that led to their sentences.
She said: “Some chose to be here, simply because they don’t feel safe to be in other prisons.
“You respect that where you possibly can in order for a prisoner to feel safe but to also progress as best as he can.
“Prison for me is about self-reflection, rehabilitation and doing your best to come into prison as one person and going out a better person.
“My role is simply to ensure, while they’re in prison, they’re given every single opportunity to reassess why they received a sentence.
“I only judge them by how they’re co-operating with my staff and with other prisoners.
“And with how they’re managing themselves.”
Governor Gavin revealed that she won’t watch the show as she hates seeing herself on TV – but we can be sure that a big Laois audience will.
Inside Ireland’s Biggest Prison: True Lives will air on Virgin Media One tomorrow at 9pm