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Speaking at the prison officers annual delegate conference today John Clinton, General Secretary said, “It is with regret that I must once again raise the serious issue of overcrowding in our prisons. This return to the bad old days poses a threat to both prisoners and staff. We were working on the basis that this matter had been resolved, never to return, but this clearly is not the case”
Clinton continued, “Our members are once again working in overcrowded prisons, and dealing with all the related problems. The prison population has again reached a level where some are doubling, trebling and quadrupling occupancy in cells. Prisoners are again being forced to sleep on mattresses on cell floors and this is a totally unacceptable situation”.
“Once again prisoners are being moved from floor to floor and transferring from one prison to another without any centralized flow plan, which is sadly reminiscent of the 90’s. Mattresses are being put on floors in an all too familiar reminder of the nightmare scenarios of holding cells being packed to capacity”
Clinton then raises the issue on the closure of the Training Unit in Mountjoy – a loss of 90 to 100 beds. “This unit can be quickly renovated and reopened. The former Training Unit provided prisoners the opportunity to learn about going to work, an act many of us take for granted but for many of those who were inmates in the Training Unit it did not come naturally and became a learned function and a step towards a normal living environment”.
Clinton concluded, “We are asking the Minister to address this pending cycle of overcrowding by ensuring full capacity in our open centres and to reopen the Training Unit as a way on immediately and proactively dealing with the overcrowding issue.
'Prison Gangs now have International Profile and Significant Funds', say’s Prison Officers Association
Speaking at the Prison Officers Annual Delegate Conference in Kilkenny today 19th April 2018, Jim Mitchell, Deputy General Secretary said, “The proliferation and power of gangs within our prisons is a matter of major concern to our organisation and individual members”.
“What we have now operating, within Mountjoy particularly, are gangs that have an international profile and significant funds to run their operations like a business. They have a hierarchy within the prison estate and have a number of ‘contractors’ that they hire ‘work ‘out to. In total there are nearly 30 factions within Mountjoy that cannot mix for a variety of reasons”
Mitchell continued, “Because of the number of groups now operating in our prisons the logistical difficulties alone of keeping one group from another are staggering. This has resulted in officers getting injured while keeping groups apart, while the attackers know that they will be amply rewarded or avoid punishment by carrying out an attack. Even now we have groups of armed henchmen that accompany their visitors. The daily threat to our members and the understandable ongoing concern of families is a serious issue for our association”
Mitchell said, “The establishment of a Unit to deal with violent and disruptive prisoners in the Midlands prison does not adequately address the difficulties created by these gangs. The state has built up significant experience of dealing with disruptive prisoners – dating back to the early 1970’s. We have spent a decade hearing about limited resources from successive Minister’s, while the solution to this growing problem already exists. A number of these prisoners have been transferred to Portlaoise, but surely the present Minister must put ALL of these individuals into the only prison in the state equipped to deal with them. The state must take charge of these gangs in the prisons with the appropriate supports in the appropriate environment. These gangs must be controlled or we will lose control of our prisons”
Mitchell concluded, “We have already addressed the issue of assaults on prisoner officers at this conference, but we must also accept the ongoing threat of and actual assaults on prisoners by others prisoners. The level of violence in our prisons can be directly attributed to the gang culture and it goes without saying that if we don’t control the gangs we have no chance of reducing the violence”
‘Assaults on prison officers have amazingly become an accepted norm – no other employer would tolerate this’, says the Prison Officers Association
Speaking on the eve of the Prison Officers Association Annual Delegate Conference in Kilkenny, Stephen Delaney the outgoing President said, “When I joined the job over thirty years ago, and many facets of the job have improved since then, the assault of a prison officer was a rarity and something that reverberated around every prison in the country and was not a statistical anomaly to be ‘interpreted’ and logged. The current amount and seriousness of assaults on our members is simply not acceptable or sustainable. Many of our officers now believe that the rule of law in prisons has disappeared and that the era of appeasement for the offender is now fully embedded”
“Delaney said, “Since our conference last May our members have experienced a wide range of assaults, while doing their duty of behalf of the state. In June three officers attacked while on escort; in July (Cloverhill) two staff were injured, which involved one recruit ingesting blood in a vicious attack; in August an officer in Cork was attacked and hospitalized with a head injury; in September, also in Cork, a Prison Officers’ Car was petrol bombed in front of their home; in October (Mountjoy) two officers were attacked and one bitten in a serious assault; in November (Midlands) an officer was attacked and sustained a head injury: in December (Mountjoy) a female officer was grabbed from behind by the hair and smacked off a wall and in the Midlands prison a female officer was sexually assaulted. Also during December urine was thrown over staff, an officer was attacked with an iron bar; while in January a Mountjoy prisoner spat into an officer’s face. These include the main items on a catalogue of assaults perpetrated on our members since we met last year”
“Delegates, year on year since I took up this role – and indeed well before my time – the President of our Union has stood here at this point in proceedings and quoted from statistical analysis of one type or another. When these statistics, especially on assaults, dip from the ‘outrageous’ to the simply ‘unbelievable’ the Minister of the day will normally tell us ‘what great progress is being made’ and that it ‘represents a significant reduction of instances of violence upon the dedicated working prison officers of the service’. And so it goes on for another year and sometimes another Minister, while individual prison officers and their families are trying to cope with all that has occurred”
Delaney continued, “I am now calling on you Minister to announce an independent analysis of assaults on our members while at work. This analysis should lead to recommendations on how our members can experience a safe place of work. Surely this is not too much to ask in 2018. I appreciate that your advisers in the department will explain these assaults away as ‘one of the risks of the job’ and ‘they joined knowing about the possibility of assaults’ – and you must reject these explanations out of hand. My members deserve and expect better”
Delaney concluded, “In recent years practical solutions that form part and parcel of prison work in other jurisdictions, such as conflict resolution, dogs and batons being part of the uniform – were unilaterally rejected by our employer. One of the practical methods of punishment, which forms part of the prison rules, was the withdrawal of remission. This was unilaterally removed by the employer in the latest round of prisoner concessions to satisfy the whim of whoever the latest ‘forward thinking’ group that never had to walk a prison landing but thought long and impressive thoughts about how to ‘hug’ away the problems of this world. We must all get real on this issue of assaults on our members; the hugging philosophy is as outdated as it is ridiculous”