08 Aug 2022

Prison staff and prisoners at risk over staffing shortfalls claim officers

Midlands Prison Portlaoise.

Prison Officers outside the Midlands Prison Portlaoise.

Staff and prisoners are at risk at the prisons in Portlaoise and other jails because of what is claimed to be a 'mismanagement' of prison officer hours.

At the Prison Officers Association Conference in Sligo, the Prison Officers Association President Tony Power highlighted what were described as serious concerns around recruitment and staffing levels in our prisons.

“Some prisons had staffing shortfalls as high as 40 or 50 a day due to the mismanagement of the Additional Hours system. In the Midlands for example, due to this mismanagement, there have been days when the prison operated fully with less than 60% of the agreed staffing levels on duty. This bad planning is surely putting both staff and prisoners at risk," he said

Tony Power said that a Regime Management Plan, much lauded by the former Director General, was to be put in place in each prison to ensure staff and prisoner safety but this is nonexistent in most institutions.

"The Irish Prison Service recently began another recruitment campaign for Recruit Prison Officers and whilst the POA welcome any recruitment that will help us achieve something close to the agreed Prison Officer numbers in every prison I must advise caution.

"When Minister Flanagan spoke in March this year at the launch of that particular Recruitment Campaign, he lauded the fact that 216 recruit Prison Officers would help to bring the overall staffing compliment of the Irish Prison Service close to full strength.

"This would be the case except that neither the Minister or the Irish Prison Service have factored in the vast number of prison staff that can and are retiring, having completed their service. The shortfall of staff on the floor in our prisons and I emphasise on the floor as there never seems to be a shortfall of managers, has been and will continue to be a matter of grave concern to the Prison Officers Association.

Mr Power said the issue was raised at previous conferences.

"The net result is that we have operated with unacceptably low staffing levels over the past 12 months and this must be addressed,” he concluded.

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