Stab vests need to be issued to all prison officers after the murder of an inmate in Cork, Fianna Fáil has said.
Justice spokesman Niall Collins said the €500 cost of such equipment was a small price to pay for protection of officers inside prison.
Mr Collins also called for the Government to bring in a mandatory five-year jail term for people who assault prison officers and emergency service workers like firemen. The remarks came after 42-year-old Graham Johnson from West Cork was found stabbed to death on Saturday evening.
“The issue of violence in prison is not something new, but it points-up the dangerous nature of the job that prison officers do,” said Mr Collins. “We know last year there were 151 assaults against prison officers.
“The Prison Officers Association has been pointing out that if there was the death of a gardaí it would become a priority for government, and they feel that there has been a lack of response from the Government in dealing with the concerns of the Prison Officers Association.”
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said a lot of investment was going into improving conditions in Cork, and the Government was continually reviewing the stab vest situation. She said this was a particular consideration in the transfer of prisoners to court.
“We have taken a decision in relation to stab vests,” Ms Fitzgerald told RTÉ yesterday. “They are being given out as we speak for the numbers that are needed, not for each and every one, but for the situations deemed most at risk.
“Obviously you make constant risk assessments in prison, what is important is that those risk assessments are done well and carefully in relation to escorts — high-risk prisoners being identified more carefully, gardaí being involved when appropriate with those high-risk prisoners.
“We have had some very unfortunate incidents recently and we have had a series of reviews after that and taken decisions to give out those stab vests and protective equipment. At this stage we are talking about 160.”
Gardaí launched a murder investigation into the death in Cork. The Prison Service and the inspector of prisons are also investigating.
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