New wing opened at Midlands Prison for violent prisoners. Picture: Alf Harvey
The families of prison officers are an 'absolutely vital support' according to Laois TD and Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan.
Speaking at the Irish Prison Service Brian Stack Training College in Portlaoise Minister Flanagan praised new and serving officers.
"Your work is challenging and important. In many respects it goes unseen by the wider community, but that does not mean it is unrecognised. You enhance public safety by both holding prisoners securely and by providing care and rehabilitation. You have the potential to make a real difference in the lives of prisoners and their families.
He said new recruits have the greatest impact on prisoner behaviour by developing the ability to interact positively.
"Prison officers influence every day through their engagement, behaviour, language, listening skills, attitudes and behaviours," he said.
Minister Flanagan had a special word of praise for families.
"Can I also, finally, take the opportunity to thank your families and indeed all families of prison officers for their continued support. That support is absolutely vital. Our officers are sometimes faced with stressful situations as they deal with extremely vulnerable people on a daily basis.
"These situations and experiences are not something that can be easily left behind when they leave the prison, but it is where you, their families, can help most, by providing the ongoing support, acceptance and understanding of the complex role of a prison officer," he said.
He said prison officers work in a potentially stressful environment where they encounter conflict and distress but he encouraged new recruits.
"There are many key competencies required for the role - you will need to develop the ability to direct others, to support others, to show conscientiousness, adaptability, and communication skills.
"However, you will also need resilience and to be able to manage your own stress and emotions. I want to reassure you that the Irish Prison Service will provide you with the support and skills to help you maintain good emotional and more importantly good mental health," he said.
Minister Flanagan officially opened the refurbished and expanded training college and new unit for violent prisoners.