Overcrowding and attacks on Prison Officers a major issue
Speaking at the POA Annual Delegate Conference conference today, Stephen Delaney, POA President said, “Overcrowding is the most serious problem facing our prison service. In the past we have highlighted the appalling, cramped conditions of Irish Prisons; our places of work. A snapshot of the Irish Prison Service on the 29th March this year shows overcrowding in Mountjoy, Dochas Centre, Castlerea, Cork and the Midlands Prisons”.
Delaney said, “In the Midlands Prison we will have a capacity of 650 from the 1st of May, up from a figure of 624, established on the 27th March and up from a previous declared capacity of 616. And how many extra cells have been built at the Midlands? NONE. Se we have found an extra 34 spaces by playing around with the figures. We have highlighted how the Irish Prison Service has interchanged the terms ‘cell capacity’ with ‘bed capacity’ in order to massage the figures and make the situation appear better than it really is”.
“Thankfully the POA is no longer alone and an isolated voice on this issue. The Minister, the Director General, the Irish Penal Reform Trust, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhumane or Degrading Treatment (CPT), the Inspector of Prisons, the Dáil subcommittee on Penal Reform and the Prison Chaplains are among the bodies to have published reports or addressed the matter of overcrowding in some way in recent times”.
“It is well to illustrate that the gang member or disruptive prisoner who has no intention of complying with the system is able to act with impunity within that system once they are covered by the shroud of overcrowding”
Delaney stressed, “In an overcrowded situation, attacks on other prisoners and prison officers are more likely and less difficult to control. In the past 24 hours a prison officer has had his face and hands slashed with razor blades in an unexpected and regrettably less infrequent occurrence. A reduction in overcrowding can be a first step in tacking other issues such as violence, drug use, intimidation and gang culture”