John Lonergan and Mountjoy

Tuned in to Prime Time this evening to watch the interview with John Lonergan, recently retired Governor of Mountjoy Jail (since 1984).

It must always be tempting for prison governors to join the “flog’em and hang’em” brigade (like so many vote-hungry politicians) but Lonergan is made of better stuff than that.

Some of his observations were very revealing including:

  • His sense of the limitations of the role of the Governor, stranded between the two powerblocks of the Dept of Justice and the Prison Officers Assocation
  • His increasing isolation within the system as time went on, due it seems to his willingness to be a vocal critic of the system and to try new ideas and schemes
  • His frustration as he leaves the system and in particular his telling observation that there has been no improvement in Mountjoy during his time there.

The clip raises some very interesting questions for the justice system:

  • Why does John Lonergan get accused of being anti-victim when in reality he is being pro-prisoner – did people expect him to be a one-man-justice-machine?
  • Why do we need Thornton Hall?
  • Why are facilities like Dochas and programmes like the Drama programme being cut?
  • Why are we letting people like John Lonergan retire when they still have so much to offer?

Lonergan deserves his own 3-part documentary – society has much to learn from how our prison systems are being administered and he is the man to shine that light.