PRISON officers have hit out at a shortage of spaces in one of Portlaoise’s two prisons without getting more cells for prisoners.
Speaking at the Prison Officers Association Annual (POA) Delegate Conference conference, Stephen Delaney, POA President said overcrowding is the most serious problem facing our prison service. He said a snapshot of the Irish Prison Service on March 29 this year shows overcrowding at the Midlands Prison in Portlaoise as well as Mountjoy, the Dochas Centre, Castlerea and Cork Prisons.
“In the Midlands Prison we will have a capacity of 650 from the 1st of May, up from a figure of 624, established on the 27th March and up from a previous declared capacity of 616.
“And how many extra cells have been built at the Midlands? None. Se we have found an extra 34 spaces by playing around with the figures. We have highlighted how the Irish Prison Service has interchanged the terms ‘cell capacity’ with ‘bed capacity’ in order to massage the figures and make the situation appear better than it really is.
“In an overcrowded situation, attacks on other prisoners and prison officers are more likely and less difficult to control...A reduction in overcrowding can be a first step in tacking other issues such as violence, drug use, intimidation and gang culture,” he said.
A new wing is being built at the prison.