Secure unit at the Midlands Prison Portlaoise.
Gangs and violence continue to be a major problem for prison officers at work in jails in Portlaoise and elsewhere according to their trade union.
Jim Mitchell, Deputy General Secretary of the Prison Officers Association, speaking at their 2019 Annual Delegate Conference in Sligo said gangs are a threat.
“The numbers, motivation and behaviour of prison gangs within our prisons is a major concern for individual prison officers and this association. In our major prisons, in particular, individual prison officers must deal with threats of violence, prisoner on prisoner assaults and personal assaults on a daily basis”
“There are roughly 28 different gangs and factions operating within Mountjoy prison alone, some are well known and high profile. There are over 230 prisoners on protection within the prison, for their own safety – and this adds to the burden placed on prison staff. Not alone must we ensure the security around ongoing detention we must manage and control systems, which protect the gangs from each other and protect individuals from assaults by gang members, for various reasons.
“Life in prison mirrors the practices and behaviours in wider society. The majority of prisoners just want to serve their time – and large numbers get involved in rehabilitation activities. Not so with the minority; especially those linked to the major gangs, who view time in prison as an extension of the gang culture with all the accompanying violence and control over other vulnerable people. This activity involves feuding, assaults, threats, drug and weapon smuggling and an ongoing determination to control crime and punishment on the outside.
"This is a most serious and continuing problem, and we ask the Minister here today to put systems in place, which will reduce the impact of gangs and related violence with our prisons,” Mr Mitchell told the membership.