Prayer and spirituality ‘the most helpful’ for managing anxiety, say Irish prisoners abroad

A majority of Irish prisoners abroad identified prayer and spirituality as “the most helpful” means of managing stress and anxiety.

That’s according to a survey conducted by the Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas (ICPO), an agency of the Catholic bishops.

Of the 1,100 Irish prisoners surveyed in 30 countries, almost 70 per cent were in UK prisons with the remainder in jails in the US, Europe, and Australia.

The unprecedented survey was conducted in the final quarter of last year by the ICPO, which was set up by the Catholic bishops in 1985 to work with Irish prisoners overseas regardless of faith, conviction or prisoner status.

Commenting on the survey findings, Bishop Denis Brennan, chair of the ICPO said, “Our survey highlights the mental health difficulties experienced by Irish people who are in prison abroad.  While it is widely accepted that such problems are a reality for many in prison at home, in the case of a citizen in prison in a foreign country these are exacerbated by time; distance, especially from loved ones and family; finance; isolation; language, and a myriad of potential cultural barriers.”

Bishop Brennan continued, “I am concerned by the relatively high number of survey respondents indicating an absence of a clear sense of direction after their release from prison.  It seems that such uncertainty is a consequence of resettlement supports being withheld from foreign national prisoners in a number of countries and the inability for many to access educational, resettlement and offender behaviour courses during the pandemic”.