herald

Thursday 17 January 2019

'Joy officers hurt in 'lazy lag' protests

TWO prison officers were injured and the dog unit was deployed at Mountjoy Prison this week over the so-called 'lazy lags' protest.

The protest started because tough-talking prison governor Ned Whelan is trying to stop prisoners staying in bed all morning on pretence of being "sick in their cells".

Mr Whelan wants to move them out to classes or lock their cells down for the full day, including meal breaks.

The governor's initiative has been greeted with anger by prisoners who protested on Monday in Ireland's most notorious jail -- by throwing chamber pots and contents at prison officers.

These incidents happened in the A and B units of the jail, which were locked down for the duration of the protests last Monday.

Prison management were so concerned about the situation that dog units were deployed to the jail at 7am on Tuesday as more protests were expected. However, there have been no reports of protests since.

This is just the latest controversy that prison boss Mr Whelan has become embroiled in as he tries to 'clean up' Mountjoy -- a prison ravaged by gangs, overcrowding and drugs.

He has brought in a tough anti-drugs regime since he succeeded John Lonergan as jail boss last July.

Previously he won many plaudits from gardai who supported his tactics while governor of Ireland's highest security prison at Portlaoise, which even led to his life being put under threat by gangland criminals unhappy with his zero-tolerance approach to prison rules.

Within weeks of being appointed Mountjoy governor, Mr Whelan sanctioned the erection of horizontal security netting enclosing the four exercise yards to stop packages and drug-filled tennis balls being hurled over the perimeter walls to the inmates at a cost of over €200,000.

In February, Mr Whelan held face-to-face talks with leaders of at least a dozen feuding gangs in Mountjoy after more than 50 inmates with home-made knives squared up in a hall and set fire to a cell.

Tensions were eased after the governor warned that the whole jail would be put on 23-hour lockdown for a month if another riot broke out and he threatened that all visits would have to take place behind screens if there was any further mayhem.

Last August, Mr Whelan was involved in a dispute with prison officers over staffing levels at the separation unit in the prison following the transfer there of violent inmate Leroy Dumbrell.

hnews@herald.ie

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