Violence inside: a growing problem in Irish prisons
Overcrowding, drugs and gang affiliations are behind the high level of violence in our prisons – a good behaviour scheme is among measures to try to curb it
When he stepped out on that Friday evening in Dublin two years ago, Declan O’Reilly knew his was a phoney sort of freedom. He’d just been acquitted of stabbing Derek Glennon to death in prison after pleading self-defence.
But the dead man was a gangland criminal; he was connected. O’Reilly knew he’d be looking over his shoulder for the rest of his life. He was murdered in revenge for the Glennon killing last September, 18 months after his acquittal.
The story of Declan O’Reilly and Derek Glennon encapsulates the laws of the prison jungle.
Glennon was a 24-year-old from Crumlin in Dublin, jailed for killing a cyclist while driving a stolen car.
He had once killed a man with a semi-automatic pistol in a Dublin pub because he had been humiliated in a fight in a Chinese takeaway the previous night. And he had threatened a prison officer with a gun during a prison escape.
He constantly clashed with prison officers and other prisoners. He had been the subject of more than 50 disciplinary reports as he and the group he assembled around him attempted to exert their control on the D-Wing landing of Mountjoy that they called home.
But on the evening of June 27th, 2007, O’Reilly snapped after months of threats, intimidation and pressure he had endured at the hands of Glennon.
They became involved in a brief struggle in a ground-floor corridor and, using a knife Glennon had forced him to hide in his cell for him, O’Reilly stabbed him repeatedly through the heart, lungs, stomach and arm.
O’Reilly later told gardaí Glennon had been bullying him for months, forcing him to hide syringes, drugs and mobile phones on his behalf, punching him and threatening to have his brother shot. He said he was terrified to leave his cell every day.
“He wouldn’t leave me alone. He was texting my brother saying he would cut me up.”
Immediately after he was killed, Glennon’s associates went to work. Before he was even buried they threw a hand grenade into a house in Crumlin in an attack aimed at O’Reilly’s family.
In September 2011, just seven months after his plea of self-defence was accepted by a jury at the Central Criminal Court, O’Reilly was shot and wounded in Harold’s Cross, Dublin.
Some 12 months later, almost to the day, he was shot again, this time fatally, as he walked with his 10-year-old son on the South Circular Road in Dublin.
A prison officer who spoke to The Irish Times said prisoners are “told they’ll be stabbed or beaten unless a visitor brings in the stuff to them” or unless they bring it back to the prison themselves when they get out on temporary release.
Staff in prisons have to continuously assess gang affiliations outside the prison and the development of any disputes or rivalries inside the walls.