Cork Prison staffing concern as six officers retire

Cork Prison staffing concern as six officers retire
Cells and landing area in the new Cork Prison. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

SIX staff members at Cork prison retired last week and several other retirements are expected this year.

The retirements have been revealed by the Prison Officers Association as their annual conference kicks off today in Galway.

The Cork branch of the association are warning of a staffing crisis looming at the new prison, which was opened just over a year ago.

They are bringing a motion to the conference seeking for recruitment of personnel for the prison to be stepped up.

The staff who retired last week include four prison officers, as well as two staff from the operational support unit. That unit is responsible for searches of all prison staff as they go on duty and leave duty, as well as visitors to the prison. They work to nab any contraband which could be trafficked into the prison.

Sources in the prison said there will be a staffing crisis in Cork if recruitment is not addressed.

Earlier this year, the Evening Echo revealed that over 40% of staff in the prison are eligible to retire this year.

The number of officers required to run the prison is 117 but Irish Prison Service figures showed that there were just 113.5 working there in the early months of this year. The IPS has not revealed any updated figures.

The control room in Cork prison. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
The control room in Cork prison. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

48 prison officers are eligible to retire this year. Not all 48 are expected to retire. However, the rate of retirements could accelerate later in the year because the majority of those eligible to retire are eligible to do so in the latter quarter.

A major recruitment drive in 1987 by the Irish Prison Service accounts for the high number of officers who are eligible to retire this year.

Prison officers are eligible to retire after 30 years service, if they are 55 years old. They do not have to retire until they are 60 years old.

Eighty officers are being recruited nationally for allocation to all the prisons in the system.

Sources said that the staff shortages in Cork are not just confined to prison officers but also to other grades working there, including work training officers who supply workshops to prisoners in a wide range of areas, including woodwork, industrial cleaning and laundry.

According to Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald, there were 26 posts filled in the workshop area at the start of March – with a further five being required to provide the services there.

The aim of the workshops is to provide skills to inmates to prepare them for employment after prison.

The aim of the workshops is to provide skills to inmates to prepare them for employment after prison.

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