Inmate's point of view behind bars in prison at day's end

Gang culture has become such a problem in Irish prisons that as many as one in four inmates in some facilities are now under protection.

A number of reports from the Prison Visiting Committee has revealed an increase in the numbers of prisoners seeking protection in Cloverhill and Mountjoy prisons last year.

In Cloverhill, the committee found there was a “substantial” rise, and that it could make up a significant percentage of the prison population on any given day.

This “continues to place a massive strain on the prison’s resources”, the report said. The committee described it as a “logistical nightmare”, as all of these prisoners have to be segregated and within that segregation they may also be split up further. Concern was expressed that this segregation leads to a restricted regime which can limit prisoners’ access to education and out of call time.

The “alarming growth” in numbers requesting protection was reported to be a “reflection of the gang culture in society”. External gang feud affiliations don’t stop at the gate of the prison when people are committed to prison. The report also highlighted concerns about yard hubs, which it said do not protect the prisoners in the yard.

Serious assaults have occurred, and with the lack of officer presence in the yards this will continue to happen. There is grave concern here among members that the use of the hubs will lead to further serious incidents occurring.

In Mountjoy, more than one in four prisoners was reported to be under a restricted prison regime. The proportion of protection prisoners as a share of the total number of prisoners in Mountjoy rose from 17% in January 2015 to 27% in October 2015.

In European terms, Ireland has more than 15% of the prison population under security measures, according to the Council of Europe.