“It would not be appropriate for the Prison Officers Association to comment on what is a security matter at this time. We are in the process of writing to the Minister, asking if he can provide further details on these most serious allegations being made by the whistle-blower, as reported in a national newspaper today.
We are asking for a response as a matter of urgency, as we would be deeply concerned about any practice that could impact on the safety and security of our members. A similar security matter did emerge in the past regarding the installation of covert CCTV equipment in a Dublin Prison, after which we were given assurances by the Director General of the Irish Prison Service that there would be no repeat of the practice. A complaint was made to the Data Protection Commissioner at that time and this led to the assurance we were given from the Director General.
We are surprised that the Minister has asked the Inspector of Prisons to investigate this matter. We believe that such a serious security matter should be investigated by An Garda Siochána and we have outlined this view to the Minister in our letter”
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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”