Level of overcrowding in prisons could lead to 'very serious situations', prison officers warn

At present, there are 4,000 people in prison. This compares to less than 3,800 this time last year. 
Level of overcrowding in prisons could lead to 'very serious situations', prison officers warn

Prison officers have warned that someone could be murdered in an Irish jail due to overcrowding.

The warning comes as the Prison Officers Association (POA) continues its annual conference in Sligo on Thursday.

At present, there are some 4,000 people in prison. This compares to less than 3,800 this time last year.

This has been attributed to increased court activity amid the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions.

Speaking to Newstalk, POA general secretary, John Clinton, said the level of overcrowding in Irish prisons could lead to violence.

"For example, in Cloverhill, there was 10 per cent of prisoners on the floor lastnight, that was 35-40 extra prisoners," Mr Clinton said.

"In the midlands, we have 58 sex offenders, and we've only 36 cells.

"Also we now see that Cork and the Dochas Centre are starting to build up with prisoner numbers again.

"Of course we are very concerned with regard overcrowding.

"We know from previously having to deal with this issue that it leads to prisoner on prisoner violence [and] it leads to prisoner on staff violence."

Mr Clinton said that it is a case of competition for limited resources.

"We've been down this road before, we've had very serious situations in prisons where we've had overcrowding in the past.

"We really don't want to go back there again. In the past we have had prisoners murdered in prison.

"We don't need that. Nobody needs to be going into their workplace facing that.

"People in the care of the State are entitled to safe custody, so the overcrowding issue is one that has to be addressed."

On Wednesday, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said the total capacity of Ireland's prisons will increase by around 5 per cent this year.

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