Five prison officers hospitalised after attacks by gangs at Mountjoy

Staff left with broken bones and teeth, as well as ligament and tendon damage

Protection groups are made up of prisoners who are excluded from the general population of the facility for their own protection. File photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times

Protection groups are made up of prisoners who are excluded from the general population of the facility for their own protection. File photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times

 

Five prison officers have been hospitalised following two separate attacks by gangs of inmates at Mountjoy Prison that left officers with broken bones and teeth, as well as tendon and ligament damage.

Both incidents occurred in St Patrick’s Institution, which is a facility for young offenders situated within the Mountjoy Prison complex, on Friday.

The first occurred at about 10am when, after cleaning out their cells, a “protection group” of 12 inmates was being returned to their cells as they had refused to take exercise in the yard.

Protection groups are made up of prisoners who are excluded from the general population of the facility for their own protection. Prison Officers’ Association deputy general secretary Jim Mitchell said these groups would be “assaulted or worse by other prisoners”.

During the first incident, there were two officers on a landing of the facility. “One of the inmates lunged at the officer in charge,” said Mr Mitchell. “The other inmates then surrounded the two of them.

“The officer who was assisting the first officer intervened and pulled his colleague away, but simultaneously the other inmates got involved. They came over the cage and attacked the two officers.

“The alarm went up and assistance was called for over the radio. Staff responded and the situation was brought under control. The three main culprits were relocated off the landing.”

The two officers were attended to by the jail’s medical staff and went off duty for treatment. Their injuries include tendon and ligament damage to their arms. “They were more defensive injuries from being attacked by the 12 or 13 prisoners,” said Mr Mitchell.

The second incident occurred at about 3.25pm and involved another protection group of 12 prisoners who were out of their cells for recreation in the exercise yard. This landing had two officers.

One of the inmates wanted to use the telephone before going to the yard. He was told he couldn’t access the phone as there were inmates from another group in the area, and, as he was part of a protection group, had to be kept isolated from them.

“He got aggressive and agitated about it,” said Mr Mitchell. “When he was on his way back to his cell, he pushed over one of the wheelie bins. An officer went over to him and as he got close to him, the inmate flung a chair at the officer’s face.

“The inmate then hit the officer across the side of the face with the chair and punched him to the face. Another officer went to his assistance and staff were called to the landing.

“Part of the prison landing is covered in mesh so nobody can be thrown off it, but the 12 or 13 prisoners rushed over the top of it and went to attack the officers. The other prisoners were agitating and attacking as they went.”

One officer suffered a broken hand as well as general injuries. Another received bruising to his hand, both legs, and his lower jaw, as well as damage to his teeth, and torn ligaments in his ankle.

Four prisoners were relocated to other facilities following the two incidents. The five officers are said to be recovering but have yet to return to duty. Mr Mitchell said there was an urgent need for greater protection of prison staff.