Prisoners ‘sleeping on cell floors’ amid serious overcrowding

‘Overcrowding provides the perfect atmosphere for the bully to thrive,’ says POA

‘Serious violence is often part of the scenario here and we prison officers pay the inevitable price.’ Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times/File

‘Serious violence is often part of the scenario here and we prison officers pay the inevitable price.’ Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times/File

 

Prisoners are sleeping on mattresses on the floors of Irish prisons as the system faces serious overcrowding issues, the representative body for prison officers has said.

The Prison Officers Association (POA), which holds its annual conference today in Sligo, said a rise in prisoner numbers is behind the measures, which have seen some prison landings accommodate almost double the number of inmates they were designed for.

Tony Power, president of the POA, said that sleeping on mattresses on floors is “becoming an all too common sight again”. Prisoner numbers have continued to rise in recent months, climbing from 3745 in April of 2017 to 3890 in April 2018, and up again to 4049 in April of this year.

“Taking one landing at the Midlands, initially designed to hold 38 prisoners, it regularly has prisoner numbers in excess of 65 and this is mirrored in many of the prisons,” Mr Power said. “Overcrowding provides the perfect atmosphere for the bully to thrive and exert huge pressure on vulnerable prisoners in particular to traffic contraband, including weapons and illegal drugs.”

“Serious violence is often part of the scenario here and we prison officers pay the inevitable price. Overcrowding puts prisoners and prison officers at unnecessary risk - and this is totally unacceptable.”