Sunday 20 October 2019

Gangland feuds force a fifth of prisoners to go 'on protection'

Cormac McQuinn and Shane Phelan

GANGLAND feuds are rife in our jails, with almost a fifth of prisoners now "on protection" to keep them safe.

Clashes between rival prisoners mean up to 900 inmates a day are in need of special protection.

While around two-thirds of protection inmates currently have access to education, recreation, gym and yard walks, a snapshot of the prison population taken in March revealed that 193 prisoners were locked up 23-hours-a-day for their own safety.

Among these were 87 inmates at Dublin's Wheatfield Prison and 44 at St Patrick's Institution for Young Offenders, including two 17-year-old boys.

Irish Prison Service director general Michael Donnellan said the problem was "a big issue for us within the prison system".

Asked about gang culture behind bars, he said: "We are but a reflection of what's happening in society."

He added that some prisoners "beg" prison guards for extra protection.

Another snapshot of the prison population last November showed 900 prisoners out of 4,298 in the prison system were classified as "protection prisoners", requiring segregation from other inmates and additional protection provided by prison guards.

Mr Donnellan said: "We have certain prisoners on committal, ask us, beg us, require us to put them separate to other prisoners and we have to take a risk assessment based on their request and their needs."

He called the issue of prisoners requiring protection "a challenge" but added that the gang culture present in some prisons reflects "what is happening in some parts of our cities".

"Of course it is much more difficult when you're having to have sub-regimes within a prison," said Mr Donnellan.

"We work everyday with the protection prisoners to see if we can integrate them back into the main prison population."

Irish Independent

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