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Friday 9 December 2016

Prison staff 'turning a blind eye to gangs' - damning new report

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Prison staff 'turning a blind eye to gangs' - damning new report
Prison staff 'turning a blind eye to gangs' - damning new report

Criminal gangs have been allowed to develop in jails with "no clear operational strategy" for dealing with them, a damning report by the prisons watchdog says.

Some staff members are "turning a blind eye to gang activities" the report by the Prison Inspector states.

The study into 'Culture and Organisation' in Irish prisons found that:

  • Drug-dealing gangs pose a "major threat" to order in jails
  • lInmates refusing to concede to gang demands face violence
  • lVictims are transferred to other prisons, rather than perpetrators

The report states that "gangs are a feature of prison life in many countries, but prisons in Ireland do not have a clear operational strategy for dealing with them".

Shockingly, it also states that "some individual staff members appear to be at a loss as to how to manage the problems of disorder which result, and prefer to turn a blind eye to gang activities".

The report attributes the growth of gangs in jails to "the absence of a meaningful individual assessment of prisoners", adding it has "significant operational consequences for the way prisons are managed and for internal good order".

It states that, as a result of gangs, "a relatively large number of prisoners are kept in protective regimes" which "often amount to isolation".

Launching the report, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said there is "no place" for gangs in our communities or in prisons, and that the problem must be addressed.

The study was compiled by Prisons Inspector Judge Michael Reilly, who said the report was meant to bring about "corrective action" rather than criticism.

A Prison Officers' Association (POA) statement last night welcomed the report's findings on the apparent lack of a strategy to deal with gangs, which they said was "a matter of deep concern to the POA for well over a decade".

"Hopefully, the IPS will now take note of this most serious and potentially explosive development within our prison system," the statement said.

Cope

However, the POA also said it was disappointed by parts of the report that "raises issues of unprofessionalism".

"The job of the prison officer is extremely difficult, as he or she endeavours to cope in a stressful and dangerous environment," the statement added. "Prison officers show immense skill, professionalism, patience and courage on a daily basis in the best interests of colleagues, prisoners and the service."

It said the report raised important issues about the need for training and claimed that staff learning and development is "grossly underfunded and does not have the necessary support of the Prison Service Management".

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