Prison Service rejects criticism | 28/04/2010Government criticised over Mountjoy | 29/04/2009Prison Service admits overcrowding | 21/09/2009Irish prison overcrowding 'acute' | 14/08/2009CONOR LALLY Crime Correspondent in Killarney
Gang culture in prisons is growing at a faster rate than at any time in the past decade with over 1,000 inmates now being held in segregation to keep rival gang members apart, the Prison Officers’ Association (POA) has said.
The gang culture has become so acute it has spread into St Patrick’s Institution for juveniles in Dublin. A new prison specifically for gang members was badly needed.
The POA also wants the introduction of mace spray so that officers can deal more effectively with the growing “vicious” gang violence.
POA president Jim Mitchell said not only is the prisons gang problem spreading, but individual gang members are now more violent than ever.
The need to keep inmates safe and minimise conflict between gang rivals meant over 1,000 of the 4,000 plus prison population were now in protective segregation, Mr Mitchell said at the POA annual conference in Killarney, Co Kerry.
“(They are in protection) out of fear, because they owe money to gangs or because they are part of the wrong gang,” Mr Mitchell said.
The prison environment had also become a “proving ground” for criminals, where their ability to “protect their drugs patch” was honed and tested.
He believed more prison officers were needed to cope with the gang violence and said overcrowding could be alleviated if fewer fine defaulters were jailed.
Many people sent to prison for fine defaulting were being processed into the system and then released immediately because there was no room for them in the jails.
The processing of such inmates was taking up a huge amount of staff time at a time when staff numbers were being reduced.
Fine Gael’s justice spokesman Charlie Flanagan today claimed the prison system was on the verge of collapse and called for the “dangerous and inhumane” overcrowding problem to be addressed.
“There are clear indications from within the prison system that unless decisive action is taken immediately, death and serious injury inside prison walls will be inevitable,” he said.
Jailers battle to break the gangs
Special intelligence units struggle to keep feuding gangsters separated in overcrowded prisons
By JIM CUSACK