Prisoner officers have called for better protective equipment like batons and pepper spray after a violent assault in Midlands prison.
The call comes following an incident in Midlands Prison on Tuesday when four staff were attacked by convicted rapist Lovemore Dube, aged 28. It is understood the prisoner attacked four staff members, biting them on the hands and arms. One prison officer suffered a broken finger after being bitten through to the bone.
Assistant general secretary of the Irish Prisoner Officers Association (IPOA) Gabriel Keaveney said the attack demonstrated the need for better protection for officers.
“Prison officers in this situation have no protective equipment whatsoever. The director general has refused to issue us with batons, notwithstanding advice from his own internal expert group.
“So we have to go into these situations with no pepper spray, no batons, no conflict resolution dogs and we have spoken about this many times before,” he told RTÉ radio.
Mr Keaveney said dogs had been in use for a period but were taken out of service “without consultation”.
However, a spokesperson for the Irish Prison Service said dogs were discontinued in 2014 as they had only been deployed on “a small number of occasions”.
“Conflict-resolution dogs are used for crowd disturbance situations and it would be very unlikely that they would be used to respond to an incident involving one prisoner,” he said.
He also said the use of personal protective equipment for prison staff is considered by an advisory committee and that the IPOA is represented on this committee.
“Therefore to suggest that the POA have not been consulted in this regard is wrong.
“The use of items such as batons and pepper-spray has and is being considered by this committee. Batons are now available for prison staff on high-risk escorts and the introduction of a standard prison issue baton is still being considered.
“The use of pepper spray is also being considered and researched and the Prison Service is liaising with An Garda Siochána who have introduced same.
“However, the decision to equip staff with such items is not taken lightly by management of the Irish Prison Service,” he said.
The State Claims Agency is currently completing a comprehensive review of the risks associated with prisoner on prison officer assaults in accordance.
The final report is expected this month.
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