THE level of violence in prisons is growing at “an alarming rate”, the Prison Officers’ Association (POA) has claimed.
POA president Stephen Delaney said hardly a week goes by without “stabbings, assaults or worse” taking place.
Details of two separate incidents in Dublin’s Wheatfield Prison last weekend and another attack in Mountjoy in the last fortnight were highlighted at the POA annual conference.
In the first incident, an inmate who had been put back into the general prison population after being on 23-hour lock-up assaulted two prison officers who were trying to put him back into his cell.
He smashed one against the door and punched another in the face, breaking his nose.
The inmate is thought to have been the subject of 150 reports of violence on officers and other prisoners.
Jim Mitchell, deputy general secretary of the POA, said: “This prisoner had a history of violence. He beats officers just for the sake of it. He has used weapons and his fists and feet.”
In a second incident in Wheatfield, an officer in his early 20s was beaten around the face and needed a steel plate inserted into his jaw.
Mr Mitchell said that within the last fortnight three officers were injured in Mountjoy when they were set up by 14 prisoners from two warring factions.
“The prisoners were in the basement area, as they were on protection for their own safety and couldn’t be placed in the general population,” he said.
“Two gangs had a go at each other and staff tried to intervene and they were turned upon. One had his nose broken, another had serious injuries to his shoulder; the third officer had cuts and bruising to his chest and face.”
He said prison officers had the most difficult workplace in the country.
“What we are looking for is there to be an incentivised regime for prisoners to reward them for good behaviour.”
He said violent inmates needed special treatment.
“There has to be another separate regime for violent prisoners where they come into as little contact as possible with officers.
“This includes 23-hour lock-up and restricting their access to everyone else, monitoring them from a distance for example when they are in the exercise yard rather than physically being there.
“We don’t want them to have free and easy access to the general population until they behave themselves.”
Mr Delaney said he was concerned that the levels of violence “will increase in intensity with serious outcomes”.
“The social and cultural profile of those in custody is widely accepted. Many prisoners are young, poorly educated, coming from a subculture in which crime and violence are deeply rooted. And in recent years it’s not just the violence, but the emergence of prison gangs, whose primary method of control is violence, threats and outright bullying.”
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