Prison officers call for protection against attacks

Prison Officers’ Association meeting hears inmate attacks on officers at ‘critical levels’

Midlands Prison in Portlaoise: Last month, an officer there was slashed by a prisoner. Photograph:    Bryan O’Brien

Midlands Prison in Portlaoise: Last month, an officer there was slashed by a prisoner. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

Knife attacks by inmates on prison officers have increased to critical levels and the murder of an officer is perhaps the only event that would prompt the response urgently required, the Prison Officers’ Association (POA) has said.

The officers’ union believes the Irish Prison Service is failing to respond properly to the problem despite six of its members being attacked in a six-week period.

At the opening of the POA’s annual conference, association president Stephen Delaney called for mandatory consecutive sentencing for prisoners convicted of attacking staff.

“Our prisons are the most dangerous places of work in this country” said Mr Delaney adding that “the union remained to be convinced that management at any level is grasping the seriousness of this situation”.

“We all knew the risks when we signed on the dotted line. However, we also thought that when there were legitimate and well-founded security-based requests for Garda support, we would be supported.”

He said his members became prison officers believing procedures would be put in place around “violent, disruptive and mentally challenged” prisoners.

Staff safety

The POA has previously called for stab-proof vests to be issued to its members and for more officers to be assigned to wings of prisons housing the most unpredictable prisoners.

In mid-February, armed robber Derek Brockwell stabbed two prison officers at Tallaght hospital. Last month, two prison officers were stabbed by a prisoner armed with a makeshift knife when they unlocked him from a cell in the challenging behaviour unit in Mountjoy Prison. Just days earlier, an officer was slashed in the Midlands Prison, Portlaoise.

Gangs

He believed new procedures established in recent years for prisoners to make complaints about their treatment at the hands of prison officers were being abused.