Overcrowding warning after four hurt in Mountjoy riot
Prisoners' rights groups said today that overcrowding and conditions were to blame for a riot at Mountjoy jail in which three officers and an inmate were injured.
About 74 prisoners barricaded themselves into an exercise yard and armed themselves with makeshift weapons for two and a half hours last night.
The riot broke out after an inmate was refused access to the yard and an officer was attacked.
Two other officers were then injured when prisoners assaulted them with pool cues and balls in the jail's A-wing.
Liam Herrick, of the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT), said: "Nobody is underestimating the job that the Prison Service has.
"But the problem we have here is that the job is being made more difficult by the conditions that they are being asked to manage and the population they are being asked to control."
The country's prison population reached more than 4,400 during the week, according to the Irish Prison Service (IPS).
Mountjoy has repeatedly held more than 700 inmates since May despite the Inspector of Prisons stating in February 2009 that the population should not exceed 600.
Mr Herrick said the issue of overcrowding had to be addressed by the Department of Justice.
He said two issues should be looked at - the number of people being jailed for non-payment of fines and minor offences, and committal procedures in Dublin where most people being held on remand are sent to Mountjoy and offenders are sent to the jail after being sentenced.
"We need to relieve the pressure in the system in the short term," Mr Herrick said.
"This is not about individual incidents. There are particular circumstances that lead a prisoner to do a certain thing. It's about the big picture, whether the Prison Service is managing the risk and there are clear indications over the years that overcrowding is increasing the risk."
The IPRT also said the number of inmates on protection and subject to 23-hour lockdown has increased to about 300 across the population.
A spokesman for the IPS insisted the disturbance was sparked by an isolated incident and not related to overcrowding.
The stand-off lasted from 7pm to about 9.30pm.
Garda units were called to Mountjoy during the disturbance as part of the force's planned response to riot threats at the jail. Officers manned a security cordon around the perimeter but were not called in to the prison grounds.