Prison officers say inmates are getting involved in the Kinahan-Hutch feud to make a name for themselves, to climb the ladder in the gangs, or because they are being forced to do so.
The Prison Officers’ Association said management needed to adopt a strategy to remove and isolate gang bosses from the general prison population. The association also said prison officers who are assaulted and unable to return to work on the advice of State doctors have had their pay cut and are left “on the breadline”.
Speaking at the association’s annual conference in Athlone, Co Westmeath, deputy general secretary Jim Mitchell said the Kinahan-Hutch feud was a reality within prisons before it exploded on the streets.
“It was a thing here in prison before it became a feud on the outside,” he said.
While not naming the person attacked, he was referring to a vicious assault on Hutch gang member Derek Hutch in Mountjoy Prison last December.
“In Mountjoy, one individual gang member was nearly savaged to death by two other inmates and, only for the quick and brave reactions of prison officers, he might not be alive,” Mr Mitchell said.
He said much of the feud violence on the streets was “authorised or condoned by gang leaders in prison”.
Mr Mitchell said a range of inmates are getting involved.
“You have young criminals looking to make a name for themselves to get in with one of the gangs; you have prisoners under threat from gang bosses to carry out an attack or else; and you have existing members of the gangs looking to climb the ladder,” said Mr Mitchell.
The association’s general secretary, John Clinton, said prison officers have been seriously assaulted and unable to return to work, but had their pay cut.
“In the past year, several prison officers who were seriously injured and unable to return to work on the advice of the chief medical officer had their pay cut and consequently were unable to pay their household or medical bills,” he said.
“Neither the Accommodations Policy nor the Serious Physical Assault Scheme were equipped to deal with the situation these officers found themselves in through no fault whatever of the individuals involved.”
Mr Clinton said official figures show there were 91 assaults on prisoners and prison staff last year.
“Somewhere in the white noise that has become public opinion, and this opinion is at its most strident within the Irish Prison Service, it seems that it is okay to only punch a prison officer,” he said. “No State employee should end up on the breadline because they have been viciously assaulted at work and are unable to return in the short term. This is a disgraceful situation.”
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