Prisoner gang feuds spark rise in isolation of inmates
THE growth of a sinister gangland culture behind bars means that the number of prisoners only allowed out of their cells for an hour a day has now hit 250.
They comprise half of a group that are known to the authorities as "protection" prisoners because they are considered to be either under threat or pose a risk to other inmates.
Some are held in a restricted regime because they have drug debts, gave evidence in a court case or are sex offenders.
But the vast majority are members of gangs that are involved in vicious feuding that has spilled over from the outside into the prison population.
Concern at the rise in prison violence has prompted the Inspector of Prisons, Judge Michael Reilly, to recommend that newly built jails must include special units to cope with the inmates who are under protection.
Prison officials said last night that requests for protection from prisoners, who want to be accommodated in separate areas because they fear they are at risk from identified inmates, are dealt with urgently.
As a result, a number of prisons had significant numbers, regarded as protection prisoners, accommodated on separate landings, which allowed access to a wide range of activities including school, workshops, gym facilities, probation and chaplaincy services.
But they admitted that there was also a group of other prisoners who were subject to a more restricted regime.
Most of them were located in older prisons, where there were constraints on space, resources and staffing levels and these made it more difficult for the authorities to keep the warring factions apart.
Among the protection prisoners are brothers Warren (36) and Jeffrey Dumbrell (30), who were both sentenced to life imprisonment last month after they were found guilty of the murder of Christopher Cawley, who was stabbed to death in front of his wife and children in Inchicore, Dublin, in October 2006.
Several prisoners, who have been involved in gang feuds, are also in restricted regimes, including Anthony 'Noddy' McCarthy, who is serving a life sentence for the murder of rival crime boss Kieran Keane as part of the war between the Keane/Collopy gang and the McCarthy/Dundons in 2003.
Those locked up for at least 23 hours a day are being held in Wheatfield (67); Limerick (64); Mountjoy (59); Midlands (33); Portlaoise (22); Castlerea (4) and Dochas Centre (1).