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The Dóchas female prison experienced the highest number of assaults by convicts on officers last year

Prison Officer Association’s president Stephen Delaney said that the Dochas centre “is a very challenging environment” for his members.

00099335_99335 Corridors at the Dóchas Centre. Source: RollingNews.ie

NEW FIGURES HAVE shown that 26 prisoner-on-prison staff assaults occurred at the Dóchas centre which houses the largest proportion of female prisoners in the prison system with 105 places.

The number of assaults at the centre is more than double the number of attacks which occurred at Mountjoy where 12 took place and much greater than the five prisoner-on-prison staff attacks which occurred at Ireland’s only maximum security jail at Portlaoise.

The prison that recorded the second highest number of prisoner on prison staff assault was Cloverhill at 21 with 12 taking place at Wheatfield.

Just five assaults happened in the centre in 2015; eight in 2014 and seven in 2013.

It is understood that 19 of the 26 incidents last year at Dóchas relate to three disruptive prisoners and two have since been transferred to alternative facilities.

President of the Irish Prison Officer Association (IPOA), Stephen Delaney said that the Dochas centre “is a very challenging environment” for his members.

Across the Irish Prison system last year, more than two assaults took place every day on average with the vast proportion of them being prisoner on prisoner.

The figures show that 670 attacks took place last year with prisoner-on-prisoner attacks making up 85% or 572 incidences.

Attacks

The highest number of prisoner-on-prisoner altercations took place at Mountjoy where 156 attacks were recorded followed by Castlerea – 139, Cloverhill – 82, Wheatfield – 55, Midlands – 50, Cork – 33, Dochas - 30 and 15 at Portlaoise.

The number of clashes by prisoners-on-prison officers increased from 91 to 98.

However, the number of prisoner-on-prison staff assaults last year is down sharply on the 151 that occurred in 2014 and the 147 that took place in 2013.

Delaney said that the increase “is a very worrying situation”.

Delaney said that the number of incidents have come down since 2014 and 2013 “but I would argue that the severity of them has gone up with staff being injured to the face and head by weapons”.

The IPS commenced providing a free counselling service to staff in 2016 and an IPS spokesman said that by the end of March, 557 counselling sessions by INSPIRE Workplace to staff.

An IPS spokesman said: “Every assault on a member of staff is treated as serious and appropriate action is taken by the Prison Service, including the reporting of such assaults to an Garda Síochána for the purposes of investigation and criminal prosecution where appropriate.”

He said: “The IPS is committed to creating a safer environment for all those who work or live within our prison walls. In addition, the service is committed to ensuring that any staff member who is subject to or witnesses an assault is given the necessary supports in the aftermath of the incident”.

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Gordon Deegan

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