To best serve and improve our service to our members the POA now seeks to engage these posts: Two Full Time Assistant General Secretaries
“We can confirm that the Prison Officers Association received a briefing this evening from senior Prison Service management in relation to the Inspector of Prisons Preliminary Investigation Report on unauthorised surveillance on staff and visitors at the Midlands/Portlaoise Prison Complex.
We can also confirm that we were issued a copy of the aforementioned report. There is a large volume of content in the Inspectors Report and we are forwarding on the Inspectors Report to the Unions legal advisors. We have requested that our legal advisors fully exam the Inspectors of Prisons Report on this matter and we have asked them to forward on their advices to us as soon as they are in a position to do so.
We have since read over aspects of the Inspectors Report and we are deeply concerned by its contents and feel that the matters raised require further examination and analysis.
In page 2 of the report the Inspector states, ‘my recommendation is in light of the fact that An Garda Siochana and the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner are now engaged; I consider that they are the appropriate authorities to carry out any further investigations relevant to the findings of the report’
As there is every likelihood of further formal investigations of these most serious matters, we will not be commenting further at this time”
Speaking at the Prison Officers Association Conference in Sligo this morning Tony Power, President of the POA said, “Pay adjustments in the wider economy are now a common occurrence, which we read about on a daily basis. As all public servants suffered pay cuts at the same time then it is only just and fair that prison officers have their pay restored in line with other public bodies. The job of the prison officer is critical to maintaining law and order – and we should not be excluded in any shape or form from current pay adjustments”
Power continued, “In September 2017 following negotiations the POA, like many other Public Service Unions, signed up to the latest Pay Agreement in good faith. However, this Public Service pay deal MUST now address the lost spending power of incomes after living costs are factored in – and the agreement must now also respond to profession-specific issues and ambitions”
Power said, “It is important that Prison Officers are not forgotten here and the Minister must fight our corner in this matter. If the Labour Court and the Government have recently recognised, as in the nurses’ case, that the pay deal is capable of dealing with grade specific claims, a process that had been absent from public service pay determination for over a decade, then surely the grades that we represent are as entitled to an independent pay review. It is imperative that the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform engage with the Public Service Unions on pay including the broader implications of the nurses’ Labour Court recommendation”
Jim Mitchell, Deputy General Secretary of the Prison Officers Association, speaking at their Annual Delegate Conference in Sligo this morning said, “The numbers, motivation and behavior of prison gangs within our prisons is a major concern for individual prison officers and this association. In our major prisons, in particular, individual prison officers must deal with threats of violence, prisoner on prisoner assaults and personal assaults on a daily basis”
Mitchell continued, “There are roughly 28 different gangs and factions operating within Mountjoy prison alone, some are well known and high profile. There are over 230 prisoners on protection within the prison, for their own safety – and this adds to the burden placed on prison staff. Not alone must we ensure the security around ongoing detention we must manage and control systems, which protect the gangs from each other and protect individuals from assaults by gang members, for various reasons”
Mitchell said, “Life in prison mirrors the practices and behaviors in wider society. The majority of prisoners just want to serve their time – and large numbers get involved in rehabilitation activities. Not so with the minority; especially those linked to the major gangs, who view time in prison as an extension of the gang culture with all the accompanying violence and control over other vulnerable people. This activity involves feuding, assaults, threats, drug and weapon smuggling and an ongoing determination to control crime and punishment on the outside”
Mitchell concluded, “This is a most serious and continuing problem, and we ask the Minister here today to put systems in place, which will reduce the impact of gangs and related violence with our prisons”
Also speaking at the conference today, POA President Tony Power said, “Over many years we have been calling for the introduction of standardised ‘Personal Protection Equipment’ (PPE) for staff, such as batons, pepper spray etc. – We welcome reference to PPE in the Irish Prison Service ‘Draft Strategy Statement 2019-2021’. The IPS is now committed to investing in standardised PPE for all staff. Let’s hope they carry out this strategy and give our members the equipment they require and most definitely deserve to ensure their safety at work.
Power continued, “In one week alone in March this year over 50 packages of contraband were either delivered by drones or thrown into the exercise yards in Wheatfield Prison. Without investment in nets for these yards the only workable interim solution is to stop prisoner exercise on Reserve period.
Much was made in the National Media 3 weeks ago on the successful prevention of contraband entering Castlerea Prison by drone. In March of this year staff successfully prevented another such attempt in Mountjoy Prison. A prison service spokesperson, as quoted in the Irish Times said, “the Irish Prison Service is exploring a number of technology options to deal with this problem”. I ask what options are these and how soon can we expect them to be rolled out in our prisons? I hope we are not waiting as long for the solution here as we have been for the introduction of mobile phone blockers”
“Power concluded, “The danger linked to these incidents is unquantifiable Prison Officers, as officers will put their own Health and Safety at risk in an effort to retrieve this contraband. Up until 2014 our canine unit had the facility to use Patrol Dogs in such situations but some genius decided that staff in blue shirts would be more effective than these highly trained dogs”