Every complaint made by inmates against prison officers under a new independent investigation system have so far turned out to be baseless.
The Prison Officers’ Association (POA) has called on Justice Minister Alan Shatter to bring in legislation imposing serious penalties on prisoners making vexatious claims.
Addressing the organisation’s annual conference yesterday, POA president Stephen Delaney said special external investigators brought in to examine complaints from prisoners were charging €150 per day.
The system for prisoner complaints was set up last November following a damning report by the Inspector of Prisons on St Patrick’s Institution for Young Offenders.
In the report, Judge Michael Reilly repeated his call for an impartial system to examine pris-oner complaints.
Mr Delaney said 30 investigations have been undertaken into serious, or Category A, complaints, relating to accusations of assault or mistreatment.
“Fifty percent of those investigated have found no case to answer; one has proven to be vexatious in nature, with the others still under due process,” he said.
“One does not have to be too creative or intuitive to realise that making a complaint against a good and dedicated staff member is perhaps the most effective way of reducing their capacity to carry out their duties effectively.”
He said such complaints had a “profound effect” on officers affected.
On other issues, Mr Delaney said prisoner numbers had jumped by 30% in the last six years, while staff numbers had fallen by 10%.
“Something has to give. It is just not possible to continue to provide a rehabilitative service for such numbers with contracting resources and funding.”
He expressed concern at the growing number of protection prisoners in the system — 629 out of a total population of almost 4,300.
“Protection prisoners are being doubled up and placed in various institutions around the country. Obviously, they can’t avail of recreation and socialise with other offenders, so that is placing additional tasks on resources.”
The said the situation on D1 landing in Mountjoy and the B division in St Patrick’s was a “matter of urgency” which must be addressed.
“Not to do so only places serious risks for all concerned.”
Mr Delaney said there was no way that prison officers would accept any measures introduced by the Government in the wake of the rejection of Croke Park II that turned out to be worse than what they accepted in the deal.
He warned the Government that they did not want to see mass Greece-like protests to their new measures.
“In the past when it was absolutely necessary, we have independently taken strike action to address issues affecting prison officers. If we have to do so again we will.”
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