'...the criminal justice system is set up by the middle classes to protect themselves from the working classes'

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'...the criminal justice system is set up by the middle classes to protect themselves from the working classes'


Billy Gallagher remembers the close of his factory in 1999. He remembers starting a new job which involved looking after prisoners after their release from prison.


Billy Gallagher


Trinity College Dublin




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In 1999 the Gallagher clothing industry died for the last time. It was possible to get a job if 'you knew someone who knew someone'. I managed to get a job looking after prisoners after release from prison. The employment was in an agency that carried out this brief on behalf of the Probation Service. The brief was that Probation would present clients 'job ready' and we would place them in jobs. Never once in my experience (971 clients) did a 'job ready' client appear. There was always a training, addiction, homelessness, family, literacy or whatever problem long before the possibility of work. Having had the boys' club experience in the 1960s these clients and this job were easy for me. Never did I find a client I didn't like, only once was I assaulted and only once was I afraid of the client (he murdered his mother on release). I dealt with murderers and robbers, violent criminals and drunkards. Drug addicts were predominant, using, supplying, selling, storing. A large number of clients were on methadone maintenance (heroin substitute), most clients (60%+) had hepatitis contracted either by sharing needles or sexually. All clients smoked dope/hash/marijuana. I formed the opinion early on that the fight against drugs was a hopeless one (there was little difference between the world consumption of illegal drugs, tobacco or alcohol except that all of the '200 billion in drugs was illegal). This screwed up the police force, the jails, the criminal justice system, the health service etc. Seemingly this was controlled by UN charter so no country could do a solo run and if they do (Holland) the country becomes the tourist destination of all the drug users in the world. Since there is an insatiable demand the battle was like holding back the sea with a spoon. It seemed to me that if drugs were taken safely in 'medical environments' the instances of quality of merchandise could be controlled and the dangers of contamination avoided. This referred in particular to dirty needles, shooting up in isolated and unhygienic places with dissemination of knowledge and safety. Alcohol use costs society but it does at least contribute somewhat and is legal. I thought the only serious drug was hash in its various forms being used by young people (i.e. under 18s) which seemed to create psychosis and lethargy that often led to suicide. The criminal community was exclusively working class. I often asked my children, nephews, nieces etc. (aged then 18 to 35) if they knew anyone in prison or if they knew anyone who knew anyone in prison. Never did I get an affirmative. I formed the opinion (when some Blackrock students were involved in manslaughter after a dance in Annabels) that the criminal justice system is set up by the middle classes to protect themselves from the working classes.


Irish Research Council for Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences (IRCHSS)

Research Coordinator/P.I.

Dr Kathleen McTiernan (Trinity College Dublin)

Senior Research Associate

Dr Deirdre O'Donnell (Trinity College Dublin)


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