Fears over prisoner complaints system

Powerful prison gangs and mischievous inmates could paralyse the Irish Prison Service by abusing new complaints procedures to be introduced in October, the Irish Prison Officers’ Association (IPOA) have claimed.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter is to introduce a more robust system to probe complaints against prison staff by inmates. The four- tier system follows a report on the issue by the inspector of prisons, Judge Michael Reilly.

The Irish Penal Reform Trust and the IPOA say an independent ombudsman would be a fairer system.

Prison officers are seeking assurances that the procedures will not encourage inmates to make unfounded or frivolous complaints.

“When they introduced a similar system in Scotland, there followed a flood of complaints,” said John Clinton, IPOA general secretary.

“It was only when they realised that there would be consequences for making unfounded and time-wasting allegations that the flood stopped.”

Mr Clinton said the IPOA would also be seeking the use of video recording to protect prison officers who have to move disruptive prisoners who are smashing up cells.

“While most inmates are not interested in rocking the boat, there are gangs and other criminal elements who would be quite prepared to use this new complaints procedure to, in effect, stop prison officers doing their job.”

Liam Herrick, Irish Penal Reform Trust executive director, said: “The inspector of prison’s recommendations contain all of the necessary elements for a robust and effective complaints process. If the new complaints system achieves that standard, then it will represent a major step forward for the Irish prison system and for prisoners’ rights.”

The body also feels the inspector of prisons should also be accountable to the Oireachtas and not to the justice minister.


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