At the annual Prison Officers Association Conference in Sligo, the issue of overcrowding in our prisons was again back on the agenda.
Tony Power, President of the Prisoners Officers Association, speaking at the conference said, “Prisoners’ sleeping on mattresses on floors is becoming an all too common sight again but yet our Open Centers remain below capacity. Prisoner numbers have continued to rise year on year from 3745 in April 2017 to 3890 in April 2018 and up again to 4049 in April 2019. Taking one landing at the Midlands, initially designed to hold 38 prisoners, it regularly has prisoner numbers in excess of 65 and this is mirrored in many of the prisons”
Power continued, “Overcrowding provides the perfect atmosphere for the bully to thrive and exert huge pressure on vulnerable prisoners in particular to traffic in contraband, including weapons and illegal drugs. Serious violence is often part of the scenario here and we prison officers pay the inevitable price. Overcrowding puts both prisoners and prison officers at unnecessary risk – and this is totally unacceptable”
Power pointed out that, “Over the last year overcrowding made an unwelcome return to our prisons – a problem, which always and ever creates major challenges for prison officers on the ground. The IPS Strategy Statement refers to the reopening of the Training Unit in Mountjoy, but Minister, not one red cent has been spent on it since the decision was taken to close it in 2016. So we need to clarity on this issue as a matter of urgency”
Power concluded. “I regretfully must raise the issue of overcrowding Minister, as all of us believed this was a historic issue. None of us want a return to the ‘Pack em, Stack em and Rack em days’ of the past, where both prisoners and prison officers pay a heavy price – you simply should not allow this to happen on your watch”