Speaking at the Prison Officers Association, Annual Delegate Conference in Galway today, Jim Mitchell, Deputy General Secretary of the POA said, “Gang warfare and drug culture continue to flourish within the prison estate. In the current environment we have threats, assaults, drugs, weapons, attacks on family homes and the capacity to control matters outside the prison. This is a matter of serious concern for all of us”
“The status quo cannot remain. We must – and this is the responsibility of the Minister and the Prison Service – develop a system that removes the power from the gangs and the gang members within our prisons by whatever means are necessary. Otherwise the entire prison system is failing society and especially the section of the prison population, who are not involved in thuggery. Gangs should not exert control at any level in our prisons – and if we don’t have stringent policies and plans on this ongoing threat we will pay the inevitable price”
Mitchell continued, “We have to again question this agenda of appeasement; rather than making the membership of a gang something to be avoided or hidden. We are told that any attempts to isolate these individuals will be resisted in the courts and will get significant support in some quarters. Let us go the courts on this issue and see where it takes us. Prison gangs should not decide what is best within our prison, the state is responsible for all that happens inside our prisons and surely it is not going to cede this responsibility to people who have committed the most serious crimes – and many who have no intention whatever of changing their ways.
The only solution Minister is isolation, so instead of closing our places of work could we open one that will prevent these individuals from spreading their influence through the entire estate”.
Mitchell concluded, “At this conference we have already raised the issue of staff who have been seriously assaulted – and when this is reported to the relevant authorities – there is no conviction for a fully verified crime. Surely the same rules should apply both inside and outside prisons on the issue of physical assault. Our members are on the receiving end of this blatant failure to fully implement the law and this raises serious issues for our officers and their families”