There are thousands of prisons and jails in the United States, and each one of them is different. From their security level to design to inmate management system, every detention facility looks unique and does things their own way.
When you venture outside of the United States, things are even more different in the world of detention and corrections. Prisons in other countries look nothing like they do in America, and many have hundreds of years of history behind them.
One famous prison that is located outside of the United States is Mountjoy Prison in Dublin, Ireland. It dates back nearly two centuries, and it was the site of executions before the country abolished capital punishment. Is this facility still open? And can you visit Mountjoy Prison?
In today’s blog post, I’m going to cover the following topics:
Mountjoy Prison – founded as Mountjoy Gaol and nicknamed The Joy – is a medium security men’s prison located in Phibsborough in the center of Dublin. It was designed by Captain Joshua Jebb of the Royal Engineers – who also designed London’s Pentonville Prison – and the facility opened in 1850.
The original intention of the prison was for it to be a temporary holding location for prisoners sentenced to “penal transportation.” Mountjoy was their first stop before they were ultimately sent to Spike Island, aka “Ireland’s Alcatraz” or Van Diemen’s Land – a penal colony now known as the island of Tasmania.
Before the death penalty was outlawed, 46 prisoners were executed at Mountjoy via hanging and firing squads. Those bodies were buried on prison grounds in unmarked graves.
Mountjoy Prison began as a model prison, as it was the product of decades of penal reform and the growth in demand for facilities when the “penal transportation” practice to the colonies came to an end.
The facility’s design was based on the idea that silence and segregation “enabled prisoners to contemplate their misdeeds” and prevented them from corrupting each other. Unlike earlier prisons, Mountjoy was built with individual cells (496 in total) on four wings that radiated off the “circle,” which was the prison’s central hub. Many parts of the original building have since been renovated or destroyed.
Thanks to the Irish Prison Act of 1840, the law stated that each cell at Mountjoy had to be lighted, warmed, ventilated, and fitted up in a manner to promote each inmate’s health and to allow him to communicate with a prison officer. This resulted in each cell having a series of ducts and air-vents that inmates could use to control the temperature. Each cell at Mountjoy also had a ceramic flushing toilet and copper wash basin, with water supplied via a crank pump.
However, this very modern sanitation setup was removed in the 1860s because the sewage system would sometimes malfunction and cause the cells to smell. Now, Mountjoy is notorious for what is called the “slopping out” system. Where prisoners remove the pots of their own waste each day.
Each door at Mountjoy has a spy-hole that allows the inmate to be observed, as well as a hatch for the prisoner’s meal to be passed through.
Nearly two centuries after it was built, Mountjoy is now known as “a disgrace in 21st century Ireland” due to the physical conditions. In 2004, it was marked for closure by the Irish Cabinet. But it’s still open and operational to this day.
Todady, Mountjoy Prison is a closed, medium security prison for adult males. It is the main committal prison for Dublin city and county, and it can house a maximum of 755 inmates.
The facility looks the same on the outside as it did in the middle of the 19th century, but inside, it has been completely renovated with modern amenities and better inmate conditions.
To visit a prisoner in Mountjoy Prison contact:
Mountjoy Prison – Tel: 01 8858955
North Circular Road, Dublin 7 or
Visiting days are Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. And visiting times are 10:15 am, 11:00 am, 2:15 pm, and 3:00 pm.
Have you ever visited a prison outside of the United States? Let us know in the comments below.
Sources: Throwing away the key https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/throwing-away-the-key-1.1133410 Inside Mountjoy Prison https://youtu.be/COkkpQb60Lw Mountjoy: The Story of a Prison https://www.historyireland.com/mountjoy-the-story-of-a-prison/
Natalie earned her Bachelors degree in Journalism from the University of Kansas, and has worked in television and radio during her career. When she was a 19-year-old sophomore at KU, she got her first on-air job as a sports reporter for a CBS-TV affiliate. In 2013, she was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the possession and production of marijuana. She was released in 2017. We've kept her last name off of our website so that she does not experience any professional hardship for her contributions.
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