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'Things are not getting better': Prison officers say they're attacked a lot more than official stats say

Jim Mitchell, from the Prison Officers’ Association. has said the official figures “don’t reflect” the situation on the ground.

Prison officers have said there's been one attack a week in Mountjoy this year.
Prison officers have said there's been one attack a week in Mountjoy this year.
Image: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

THE OFFICIAL STATISTICS on the number of assaults on prison officers does not accurately reflect the number of times they are attacked, according to the Prison Officers’ Association (POA).

The association, which is holding its annual conference in Kilkenny today, said that despite the Prison Service’s official number of assaults dropping over the past five years, “things are not getting better” for prison officers.

Last year, for example, there 107 recorded assaults on prison officers but POA deputy general secretary Jim Mitchell told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that the true figure may be far greater.

He said: “The figures don’t reflect what we’re being told on the ground, and it doesn’t reflect what we’re being told by our representatives in each and every institution.

We would have had a significant number of assaults over the Christmas period alone, in Mountjoy and the Midlands there were 22 assaults on staff.

He also said that, so far this year, they’ve had reports of one assault a week on staff in Mountjoy.

Mitchell said that the difficulty comes as the Prison Services counts “direct assaults” on staff, and not cases where a prison officer may get injured in the course of breaking up a fight.

He said: “For example, in Mountjoy where there’s a significant amount of gangs there are logistical difficulties that staff face on each and every day in dealing with those and [the difficulty] trying to keep them apart is that an amount of our people end up caught in that and end just as injured and just as damaged by it.

In our opinion, they have to be able to see year-on-year things are getting better. We don’t believe they are.

Mitchell advocated for more standardised equipment, citing an example from Copenhagen where every officer carries a baton, cuffs and pepper spray as part of their uniform.

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He also said that body cameras for staff would solve many issues that they face.

The association is also calling for the Director of Prisons to reinstate the policy of withdrawal of remission – time off sentence for good behaviour – as punishment for prisoners who commit serious disciplinary offences.

Mitchell said that not being able to withdraw remission meant that prisoners could “act with impunity” and that it sends out the wrong message.

The POA will ballot members on calls for the reinstatement of the punishment today.

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Sean Murray

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