There are thousands of prisons and detention centers in the United States, and each one is different. From their security levels to design to prisoner management systems, each detention facility looks unique and acts in its own way.
Things are even more different in the world of detention and corrections when you venture outside of the United States. Prisons in other countries look nothing like those in the US, and many have hundreds of years of history behind them.
A well-known prison located outside the United States is Mountjoy Prison in Dublin, Ireland. Its history dates back nearly two centuries, and it was a site of executions before the country abolished the death penalty. Is this facility still open? Can you visit Mountjoy Prison?
In today’s blog post, I’ll discuss the following topics:
- Mountjoy prison has a long history
- mountjoy prison today
- Yes, you can visit Mountjoy Prison
Mountjoy prison has a long history
Mountjoy Prison – founded as Mountjoy Gaol and nicknamed The Joy – is a medium security men’s prison located in Phibsborough, Dublin city centre. Designed by Captain Joshua Jebb of the Royal Engineers – who also designed London’s Pentonville Gaol – the facility opened in 1850.
Prisons were originally intended as temporary holding places for prisoners sentenced to “sentence”. Mountjoy was their first stop before they were eventually sent to Spike Island, also known as “Ireland’s Alcatraz” or Van Diemen’s Island – a penal colony now known as Tasmania.
Before the death penalty was outlawed, 46 prisoners were executed by hanging and firing squad at Mountjoy. The bodies were buried in unmarked graves on the prison grounds.
Mountjoy Gaol was originally a model prison, as it was a product of decades of penal reform and the growing need for facilities at the end of the colonial practice of “penal transport”.
The facility’s design is based on the idea that silence and isolation “enable prisoners to reflect on their misconduct” and prevent them from corrupting each other. Unlike earlier prisons, Mountjoy Prison’s four wings are made up of individual cells (496 in total) radiating from a “circle”, which is the prison’s central hub. Many parts of the original building were later renovated or destroyed.
Thanks to the Irish Prisons Act of 1840, the law dictates that each cell at Mountjoy must be lit, heated, ventilated and furnished in a manner that promotes the health of each prisoner and allows him to communicate with prison officials. This resulted in each cell having a series of ducts and vents that prisoners could use to control the temperature. Each cell at Mountjoy also has a ceramic flush toilet and copper washbasin, with water supplied by a crank pump.
However, this very modern sanitation facility was dismantled in the 1860s because the sewage system sometimes failed and caused the cells to smell. Now, Mountjoy is notorious for their so-called “water pour” system. The place where prisoners remove their trash cans every day.
Each door on Mountjoy has a spy hole to observe the prisoners, and a hatch for the prisoners to eat.
Nearly two centuries after it was built, Mountjoy has been dubbed “the disgrace of 21st century Ireland” due to its physical condition. In 2004 it was marked for closure by the Irish Cabinet. But it is still open and functioning to this day.
mountjoy prison today
Today, Mountjoy Prison is a closed medium security prison for adult males. It is the main custodial prison for the City and County of Dublin, with a capacity for up to 755 inmates.
Externally the facility looks the same as it did in the mid-19th century, but internally it has been completely refurbished with modern facilities and better conditions for prisoners.
Yes, you can visit Mountjoy Prison
To visit an inmate at Mountjoy Prison please contact:
Mountjoy Prison – tel: 01 8858955
North Circular Road, Dublin 7 or
Visiting days are Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Visiting times are 10:15am, 11:00am, 2:15pm and 3:00pm.
Have you ever been to a prison outside the United States? Let us know in the comments below.