OVERCROWDING AND LACK OF SPECIALIST CELLS A MAJOR ISSUE
Speaking at the POA Annual Delegate Conference in Kilkenny today, Stephen Delaney, POA President said, “Overcrowding has been like a noose around the Prison Service neck for several years and there appears to be no real commitment to tackling the issue. Previous Justice Ministers closed Fort Mitchell, the Curragh and Shangannagh Castle, which was the only open centre for juvenile offenders. As a consequence young offenders are now being placed in adult institutions, which flies in the face of all expert opinion not to mention the fact that such actions are in direct contravention of the United Nations Convention on the rights of the Child”.
“Despite the well established fact that mental illness is a major issue within the prison population, there are just nine cells available to accommodate offenders, who are regarded as mentally ill or mentally challenged. And furthermore there are only nine spaces/cells, where a detox programme is available for those who wish to come off drugs. All others who wish to come off drugs must try to do so within confines of a drug environment. Where is the commitment to rehabilitation?”
“Within the Service today there are in excess of 400 Prisoners on protection every day. There are quite simply insufficient resources and facilities to cater for such numbers. And when we have Overcrowding; where the bully and the drug pusher can operate, pressurising the vulnerable, you have an environment where rehabilitation is virtually impossible. Indeed you’re Staff /our members should be complemented on their professionalism in such circumstances”
“I ask you here today to look at the system in its entirety. Ask the hard questions and establish the facts. How many of our prisoners are in prison today, as a result of committing a petty crime, or non-payment of fines?. And because we have people in the system, who shouldn’t be there; the system is exploding at the seams and there is little focus on rehabilitation. As prison officers we see the same people returning year on year and we see lots of people who are no threat whatever to society and yet are incarcerated, within the terms of our laws. We also see the major thug who tries to have the same control in prison as he does in the community and we are not fully equipped to deal with this fairly recent phenomenon. Our entire system needs an overhaul, as the current thinking at management level and political level is dated and flawed”.