A prisoner who is so disruptive prison officers have to wear riot gear to deal with him has been given a PlayStation and a fish tank in a bid to pacify him, a prison officers’ conference has heard.
Plans to build a garden for this prisoner in an area off the landing have also been discussed.
At the annual conference of the Prison Officers’ Association (POA) in Co Clare yesterday, Assistant General Secretary Gabriel Keaveny said this prisoner “needs three staff in riot gear with him, he is that dangerous”.
Mr Keaveny outlined a series of special privileges the man has access to, which he said are in breach of the prison’s incentivised regime.
He said the man has been given a PlayStation and that prison management have bought games for him.
In addition, Mr Keaveny said, prison management have made available a fish tank out on the prison landing “to pacify him”.
He said: “This guy has very seriously assaulted staff in the past and they are now talking about building a garden for him off the landing for him to have some time in.”
Mr Keaveny said that the prison authorities also “get special brown bread for him which no other prisoner has access to”.
He said the same prisoner “did a flip recently and broke glass in the prison that is practically bullet proof. He is extremely dangerous and he is under the violently disruptive prison policy.”
Asked to comment on the prisoner’s alleged special privileges Irish Prison Service chief executive Michael Donnellan said it was not possible for him to talk about individual cases.
Expressing concerns over the level of violence against prison officers, Mr Keaveny said: “The prison service will not allow us to carry batons. We are not allowed carry a baton, we have nothing to defend ourselves with — only our bare hands.”
Deputy general secretary of the POA Jim Mitchell hit out at what he called vexatious complaints by prisoners against prison officers. “It is a major difficulty for us at the moment,” he said.
Mr Mitchell said a prisoner with numerous convictions for violent assault made a series of spurious and vexatious complaints resulting in 27 staff having to be lined up and asked questions such as: “When did I get my milk?”, “When can i see my friend?”, and “Why was the mop bucket not put into my cell?”
He said: “For us, this can only undermine the morale of staff across the entire prison system and leads to a breakdown of social order within prison and breaks down to any law and order that we have within the prison.
“This culminates ultimately in violent assaults on staff.”
In her address, Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said that, since January 2013, there have been 179 Category A complaint investigations of allegations of assault or serious intimidation of prisoners by staff.
She said: “Of these, a small number have been upheld.”
On the POA’s concerns over vexatious complaints, MS Fitzgerald said the Prison Service is exploring the possibility of establishing a pre-investigation process by external investigators on certain Category A complaints to see what can be done to address concerns in this regard.
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