Thursday 19 October 2017

'It's not unusual for prisoners to threaten your kids' - prison officers reveal security fears

Stephen Delaney
Stephen Delaney
Conor Feehan

Conor Feehan

Senior prison officers have had security equipment installed in their homes because of death threats made by prisoners, according to the president of the Prison Officers' Association (POA).

Highlighting how dangerous the job has become, Stephen Delaney said he had been informed of the protection measures being carried out.

"I am aware of senior officers having equipment installed in their house arising from threats made by an offender - actual death threats," he said.

POA assistant general secretary Gabriel Keaveny said that, recently, a female officer was targeted in one of the country's prisons.

"Damage was done to her car, her house was targeted on a number of occasions. It is not unusual for a prisoner to say to you, 'I know where you live, I'll burn your house down, I'll get your kids'," he said.

"Unfortunately the prison service had to bring in a specific protocol to deal with that, which involves security cameras, monitored by gardai. A whole range of stuff."

Mr Delaney said that, in such situations, intelligence is required by the Department of Justice and the garda to help deal with the issues.

Meanwhile, prison officers have raised concerns that they could fail newly introduced roadside drug-drive tests by passively inhaling drugs being smoked by inmates in jails.

The issue has been discussed at the POA annual conference in Galway.

"Our members work in an environment where others use drugs on an ongoing basis and there is concern that the passive effects can show up as a positive in a drug-driving test," said Jim Mitchell, deputy general secretary of the POA.

"We passed a motion on this at our conference to the effect that we want immediate discussions with the Irish Prison Service on this issue.

"Drug use is part and parcel of prison life for some prisoners, despite our best efforts to deny access at entry points through searches and the use of electronic systems.

"So, in responding to the possibility of flawed drug-driving tests on our members, we must face the reality of drug use in our prisons and take some action.

"The Irish Prison Service has a responsibility in this and we expect it will enter meaningful discussions in the coming weeks. We are particularly concerned that, not only are established drugs being accessed by prisoners, but also new, novel psychoactive substances."

A spokesman for the prison service said it meets regularly with members of the POA and would listen to their concerns.

"We would trust that the drug-testing systems being used by gardai would be robust enough to be used," he said.

Herald

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