Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald last week addressed the Prison Officers Association conference, listing safety measures on the way for high risk escorts, following a recent escape and stabbing of two officers by a prisoner.
The measures include 160 anti-stab vests to be worn by staff on escorts of “high risk” prisoners, ballistic vests for armed or high risk escorts, staves (a type of baton) and incapacitant spray. Prisoners must also wear standard uniforms while out on escort.
How hospital escorts are conducted is also to be reviewed, as well as the profile of prisoners, to deem which ones would be “high risk” during escorts.
In addition, appropriate training and equipment is to be provided on de-escalation measures.
Extra drug sniffer dogs are also in training, to total 24 passive and 14 active dogs.
“There is no doubt that the work of prison staff is challenging and demanding and dealing with offenders, many of whom have been convicted for violent offences, brings a higher degree of risk than most other professions,” said the Minister.
“No act of violence against staff is acceptable or tolerated. I take the safety and welfare of all prison staff very seriously and we are committed to ensuring that every action is taken to safeguard staff at all times. Every violent assault is viewed and treated as a serious incident,” she said.
In 2014, there were 151 recorded assaults by prisoners on staff.