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Tuesday 23 September 2014

Inmates were responsible for 758 assaults in the past year in our prisons

Some 154 of these were attacks on staff

Tom Brady and Gordon Deegan

Published 05/07/2014 | 02:30

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Mountjoy Prison in Dublin
Mountjoy Prison in Dublin

PRISON officers deal with more than two violent incidents a day in our jails.

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Inmates were responsible for 758 assaults in the past year, according to the latest figures.

The attacks are being carried out despite the successful introduction in the prison population of a range of measures.

These include hand-held metal detectors, netting over prison yards and airport-type security machines to prevent weapons from entering the jails.

Prisoners were involved in 604 assaults on other offenders while there were 154 attacks on staff.

More than one-sixth of rows between inmates took place in Mountjoy Prison while there were 103 in Castlerea, Co Roscommon; 88 in the Midlands; 77 in Wheatfield; and 76 in adjacent Cloverhill in west Dublin.

The open centre at Shelton Abbey, Arklow; Loughan House in Blacklion, Co Cavan; and the Training Unit in the Mountjoy complex were the quietest jails.

They were also the safest for prison staff, who were the victims of 49 attacks in St Patrick's Institution, 34 in Mountjoy, 12 each in Cloverhill and Castlerea and 10 in Wheatfield.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said no level of inter-prisoner violence or assaults on staff was acceptable and every effort was made by prison staff and management to limit the scope of acts of violence.

"However, no regime can completely eliminate the possibility of violent incidents happening in a prison setting," she added.

The minister pointed out that the number of assaults included some very minor incidents. The figures worked out at an average of 2.1 incidents per day.

Behaviour

She said new prisoner programmes had been introduced, such as the incentivised regimes policy, which meant prisoners were granted privileges depending on their level of engagement and their behaviour.

As a result of those measures, the figures for last year represented a drop of 8pc on the 2012 total of 822 assaults.

Deputy general secretary of the Prison Officers' Association Jim Mitchell said that assaults by prisoners continued to be a concern.

He said: "Prison officers apply for the job and they know what the job involves but they are entitled to expect to carry out a day's work without being attacked."

Irish Independent

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