‘We must remove the power from the gangs in prison’, says Prison Officers Association
Speaking on the eve of the Prison Officers Annual Delegate Conference in Athlone last night, POA President Stephen Delaney said, “ The reference to criminal gangs at the Prison Officers Association conference is nothing new. What is different this year is that we may actually get a hearing, arising from the horrendous feud that has erupted on our streets. Tragically we have seen this spate of murders continue this week, as part of the ongoing gang feud”
Delaney continued, “Time and time again we have raised the issue of gangs within our prison system. These gangs are an ongoing threat to prison officers and make the life of those prisoners, who seem to be weaker, an absolute hell. In this environment, we have threats, assaults, drugs, weapons, attacks on families – and the capacity to control matters outside the prison”
“At present we are allowing a status quo to exist which appeases the bully and the gang – and this is not acceptable. We must – and this is the responsibility of the Minister and the Prison Service – develop a system that removes the power from the gangs and the gang members within our prisons by whatever means are necessary. Otherwise the entire prison system is failing society and especially the section of the prison population, who are not involved in thuggery. We have to question this agenda of appeasement, rather than making the membership of a gang something to be avoided or hidden. In the present prison environment gang membership is flaunted for the purpose of intimidating the neutral and the frustration of the officer”.
“According to a recent newspaper article we are given credit and acknowledgement for keeping those gang members in our charge alive. In one such case, three of our colleagues went into a crowded Mountjoy exercise yard where a relation of one of the main protagonists in the current feud was being hacked to pieces. The three officers, using bare hands and courage only, pulled him from certain death. Most online comments afterwards were asking – why did they bother? They should have let him die! Etc. But for prison officers the obvious question is why are vicious gang members allowed to congregate and carry out such an assault? And believe me any one of those offices could become the subject of a prisoner complaint – but more of that later.
In the same newspaper article we prison officers were credited by ‘an anonymous Garda source’ for keeping a lid on the number of deaths on the outside; as a prison murder or attack can have immediate and terrible ramifications in our communities”.
Delaney concluded, “But our question is; why should prison officers have to charge into an exercise yard to do the right thing? Why have we not established a system of isolation, where membership of these gangs has a limiting benefit, and based upon hard earned Garda and prison based intelligence, these gangs and their members are isolated and kept apart from the general prison population. If we reduce the power of these gangs in prison we also restrict their capacity to control matters on the outside – so all of society will benefit”