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Prison staff levels down 300 after latest cuts

STAFFING levels in Irish prisons are some 300 below authorised numbers, the Minister for Justice has admitted.

Minister for Justice and Equality Alan Shatter said governors have had to run their prisons with "fewer staff".

Prison officers and staff involved in education, psychology and health care at the country's prisons have all been cut back under strict budgetary changes.


A number of work training programmes and classes at prisons have also been curtailed.

But key monitoring is ongoing to ensure that prison safety is not compromised or prisoners' quality of life hampered.

Minister Shatter outlined that the Irish Prison Service, as well as the Public Service in general, has been affected by the moratorium on recruitment.

And the Public Service Agreement between 2010 and 2014 requires significant additional savings from the Irish Prison Service in terms of a reduction in staff numbers.

"The reality is that governors have to run their prisons with fewer staff and therefore there have been occasions where governors have had to prioritise tasks," he said.

"Where it is necessary to reassign certain staff members to frontline areas for security and operational reasons this is done on a rotational basis to ensure minimum disruption to other services."

Minister Shatter said that there was an in-depth review taking place with staff and management at the Irish Prison Service that will examine "all aspects of prison work".

"To ensure that this reduction in staff numbers does not lead to a reduction in levels of service delivery, the joint task review process is creating new staffing configurations," he said,

Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked Minister Shatter how the drop in numbers was impacting on prison life for prisoners.

He said that the set up is being rebalanced in favour of certain work training activities.

"Governors are aware of the importance of prisoners having access to a range of appropriate programmes and every effort is made to minimise the impact of any curtailment on prisoner programmes," he added.