Assaults on prison officers still a major concern…..
Speaking on the eve of the POA Annual Delegate Conference in Galway last night, John Clinton, General Secretary said, “The Minister and the Government will be well aware of the focus of the various trade unions over the past weeks, at conferences, as they rightly highlight the need for immediate pay restoration. The Prison Officers Association is no different – and we simply cannot wait any longer to have our 2008 pay levels restored”.
Clinton continued, “Since 2008, across both public and private sectors, there has been limited wage increases, and this has contributed significantly to the recovery in the economy. The Government tells us week after week about increased tax income, reduced unemployment and other cash flow benefits for the state. Yet workers are being told and media are being briefed to the effect that ‘we can’t afford it’. Our Minister and all of us know that you can’t play with the wind in both halves – as the Government is now trying to do on this issue. It is simply unfair, unjust and unacceptable that our members and other workers have had to carry the burden for the failings of others for the past nine years.
Stephen Delaney, President of the POA said, “The Prison Service is currently facing a staffing crisis. There are simply not enough Prison Officers to do what we are required to do. All of us are aware that retirements this year will exceed recruitment figures; this is not sustainable and it creates an ongoing additional risk for prison staff and prisoners”.
Delaney continued, “The reduced staffing levels contributes directly to the risk for prison officers with ever increasing levels of assaults. To add insult to the injuries inflicted on our officers there is no penalty for the prisoners involved. It is now the case that staff, who have been seriously assaulted and report their assault to the relevant authorities, cannot get a conviction, in spite of a wealth of available evidence. In one significant case there was even an admission of guilt from the prisoner, yet no conviction”.
“In a highly publicized incident in the Midlands Prison in 2015 an officer was stabbed by a prisoner and the matter was reported to the Gardai. Many staff present on the day were not asked for a report and in spite of the prisoner admitting to the assault in front of a Governor the DPP ruled that a prosecution could not proceed due to lack of evidence? In a similar incident in the same prison an officer was assaulted which can clearly be seen on a CCTV camera. However as another CCTV – that wouldn’t have shown anything any different – hadn’t been saved – the prisoner walked on a technicality!”
“The issue of violence in prisons regrettably continues, with a number of very serious incidents involving assaults on prison staff in the past year. Mandatory sentencing, as raised by the Gardai earlier this week is undoubtedly needed as one of the responses to assaults on our members, while carrying out their duties”.
General Secretary John Clinton concluded, “In a recent analysis conducted by the State Claims Agency the projected level of assaults by prisoners on prison staff for 2017 was estimated at 107. Let’s just think about that for a minute; more than two prison officers per week will be assaulted in the course of their work. For the avoidance of doubt every prison officer knows and accepts the risks involved in our work but what we cannot fathom is why recommendations such as the compulsory carrying of batons are being rejected.
“The nature of these assaults included concussion, lacerations, cuts, fractures burns and bites. The most of these injuries were to the head and face thereby leaving a permanent reminder to the injured officer of the incident”