The Irish Prison Service have defended their decision to give treats to dangerous prisoners in Portlaoise who had seriously assaulted officers.
A playstation, dvds, television, a goldfish and possibly a garden are among treats for one prisoner who committed over 150 assaults on prison staff.
Another, recently moved to the high security Portlaoise Prison on punishment after slashing two prison officers in Mountjoy, was reported by the Prison Officers Association as having been given €65 by management to buy a birthday cake and minerals.
“This is not discipline. to be quite frank, it is unbelievable,” said president of the POA Stephen Delaney.
He said prison officers are “upset and irate”.
“It is sending completely the wrong message. There should be no encouragement for bad behaviour. These people act with impunity when they assault prison officers. We are yet to be convinced that management are taking our concerns seriously regarding our safety,” he said.
Mr Delaney welcomed the announcement of new safety measures by Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald, but said it fell short.
“This is not sufficient for our needs. 160 stab vests equates to about 11 per unit, but we have many escorts going out each day, and aside from that we are dealing with prisoners regarded as highly dangerous, and stab vests would offer protection,” Mr Delaney said, also calling for batons to be introduced.
“When a prisoner attacks, he usually has a weapon, but all the officer has is his blue shirt,” he said.
Director General of the Prison Service Michael Donnellan defended giving prisoners luxuries.
“To crush people more, in my experience, doesn’t really work. It makes people more angry. What you’ve got to do is build people up so we can have a safer society,” he said.
“A humane prison service is about trying to take pe0ple who are broken and build them back up again,” he said.
A spokesperson from the Irish Prison Service said there was no birthday cake.
“The prisoner got a €15 hardship grant, to buy toiletries such as a toothbrush. With that he also ordered a €1.99 swiss roll and two bottles of coke from the tuc shop. He was given €50 for an electric razor because management refused him blades as he had attacked staff with a razor blade,” he said.
Prisoners do lose some privileges for attacking staff.
“They are on a more restricted regime. But implementing harsh regimes aggravates prisoners and that puts staff and ultimately the public at further risk,” he said.