Speaking at the conference today, Stephen Delany, President of the POA said. “All of you will be aware that the Report on the tragic death of Gary Douche while in prison was published last week. The report stated, “The Commission recognises also that the Prison system is frequently overwhelmed and under – resourced”.
Delegates, what has changed since 2006. Thankfully overcrowding has been tackled in the main penal institutions like Mountjoy. However we still have significant overcrowding in both women’s prisons, Dochas and Limerick – while Castlerea and Cork currently operate beyond bed capacity.
In 2007 a year after Gary Douche died there were 3,200 prisoners in custody. Today that figure has increased to 4,065, an increase of over 20 per cent. Coupled with this, there are currently 688 on temporary release and 545 on trial or remand. This makes the total number in the penal system 4,888.
This is a massive increase in prisoner numbers compared to a total daily average of 3,321 in custody in 2007. With contracting resources there simply isn’t the capacity to cater for such increasing numbers in custody. Where does this level of increase in occupancy take us – it just can’t continue without planning at management level and a review of facilities and resources.
The Incentivised Regime Programme is an example of a good programme poorly administered. This scheme as currently operated in certain institutions, is merely a paper exercise for over worked class officers and is doomed for failure, unless a coherent approach is taken by local management in these locations”.
Delaney went on to say, “Violent and disruptive prisoners have to be managed better within the prison estate. Assaults on staff continue, only last week in Mountjoy there were three separate incidents of assault, two Officers had boiling water thrown over them, another was struck viciously about the head and the other had a blood spillage smeared over his face. Only last Monday an Officer was bitten by a prisoner which required the Officer to have hospital treatment. Where else in the State is this type of behaviour a feature of a worker’s daily life.
It was regrettable but necessary that the assistance of the Health and Safety Authority was required arising from management’s failure to deal with violent inmates within the Wheatfield Complex.
The fact is Delegates, that Risk Assessments and the implementation of Diminishing Task Lines are a key feature of prison life for both management and staff in most prisons today. The Safety Management System has been devised and rolled out.
Local managers must be instructed that there is a requirement to only carry out tasks where there is sufficient manpower to do the job in a safe environment. All stakeholders, including those in custody, should be aware you can only cut your coat according to your cloth.
Delegates, there is also an enormous task ahead with regard to creating a workplace where staff are treated with dignity and respect and are valued as employees. This work continues but it must be made clear that local managers must support and ensure the success of the Dignity at Work Initiative as Dignity at Work is not an optional extra, but a basic entitlement for all staff who do such a difficult job on behalf of State.
Even for Portlaoise Prison, the highest security prison in Europe, there is a proposal to withdraw the Environmental Allowance for staff within. It is not because the subversive prisoners have gone away, it is because the prison numbers have increased to include the most dangerous criminal underworld within the state.
Delegates, in particular for those in Portlaoise, I can assure you that we have and will continue to provide all the necessary resources to oppose such derisory and unnecessary actions of the state”.