herald

Friday 22 September 2017

Special prison riot teams used 373 times at Portlaoise last year

Leon Wright
Leon Wright

Prison authorities deployed "control and restraint" (C&R) teams in riot gear 373 times to deal with high-risk prisoners at Ireland's only maximum security prison at Portlaoise last year.

New figures show the Irish Prison Service (IPS) C&R teams were deployed more than once every day on average at the facility. Portlaoise houses some of the country's most notorious criminals, including the murderous Dundon brothers from Limerick and the country's most dangerous inmate, Dubliner Leon Wright (28).

Shields

C&R teams have been deployed regularly to deal with Wright.

Last March, a five-strong C&R team armed with shields and batons accompanied Wright to a cleared Portlaoise District Court, where he was jailed for six months for the assault of four prison officers during an incident at Portlaoise in February last year.

Victim impact statements from the prison officers stated that their partners and spouses feared they were constantly at risk of assault. Wright has 106 previous convictions and has been disciplined more than 212 times in prison. He has attacked more than two dozen guards while inside, necessitating the use of C&R teams for any interactions with him.

A C&R team would typically consist of five or six guards wearing riot gear, including a helmet and shield, to deal with prisoners or situations deemed high-risk.

In a written Dail reply on the use of C&R teams in Irish prisons, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan revealed that their deployment at Portlaoise is far greater than in any other prison. The figures show that C&R teams were deployed 273 times at Mountjoy last year - 100 fewer than Portlaoise - while they were used 102 times at Cloverhill.

"As part of a control and restraint team, a staff member, with a video recording camera, records footage of the event," Mr Flanagan said in his written Dail reply to Sinn Fein TD Jonathan O'Brien.

"The majority of the incidents in which a control and restraint team was deployed did not require the physical removal of the prisoner."

Stressful

Prison Officers' Association (POA) president Stephen Delaney said yesterday that the high use of C&R teams at Portlaoise last year underlines the risks faced by staff at the prison.

Mr Delaney said Portlaoise "is a particularly stressful environment to work in and this has been recognised with the payment of an environmental allowance to staff there".

The payment of the environmental allowance - more commonly known as danger money - is in recognition of Portlaoise housing the country's subversive republican prisoners.

They currently number 40 in jail there, down 32pc from the 59 incarcerated there five years ago.

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