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Prison officer 'slashed across face and hands with razor blades'

The Prison Officers Association is warning that overcrowding in prisons makes attacks on other prisoners and prison officers more likely.

File photo
File photo
Image: Paul Faith/PA Wire/Press Association Images

THE PRISON OFFICERS Association has warned that overcrowding in Irish prisons is the most serious problem facing the service as it said that a prison officer had his face and hands slashed in an attack this week.

At its annual delegate conference in Galway the POA President Stephen Donnelly said yesterday that overcrowding was an issue in a number of prisons across the country including Mountjoy, Castlerea, Cork, Dochas Centre and the Midlands Prison.

He revealed that earlier this week a prison officer had his face and hands slashed with razor blades “in an unexpected and regrettably less infrequent occurrence”.

Donnelly said that overcrowding made attacks on other prisoners and prison officers more likely and difficult to control. He said that reducing overcrowding in prisons could help reduce other problems such as violence, drug use, intimidation and gang culture.

He warned that gang members operating in prisons are able to act with “impunity” in the prison system particularly in overcrowded prisons.

Donnelly explained the situation to delegates yesterday : “In the Midlands Prison we will have a capacity of 650 from the 1st of May, up from a figure of 624, established on the 27th March and up from a previous declared capacity of 616. And how many extra cells have been built at the Midlands? None.

“So we have found an extra 34 spaces by playing around with the figures. We have highlighted how the Irish Prison Service has interchanged the terms ‘cell capacity’ with ‘bed capacity’ in order to massage the figures and make the situation appear better than it really is.”

Donnelly said that the POA was finding increasing support from the Minister for Justice, the Irish Penal Reform Trust and other interest groups to address the matter.

But yesterday he said that the gangs in prison was an issue that the prison service seemed to be ignoring. The 65th annual POA delegate conference continues in Galway today.

Prison officers: ‘Prison service seems to ignore gang problem’

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Hugh O'Connell

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