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'Maghaberry prison officer so stressed he's self-harming', says Edwin Poots

By Claire Cromie

Published 23/11/2015

Maghaberry Prison
Maghaberry Prison

A serving prison officer at Maghaberry HMP is self-harming because of the stress of the job, Edwin Poots has claimed.

The DUP MLA, who sits on the Assembly's Committee for Justice, made the revelation live on the BBC Nolan Show on Monday.

He was responding to an interview with a Maghaberry prison officer who claims the jail is understaffed, in chaos and awash with drugs - which Mr Poots described as unsurprising.

The anonymous officer said the problem was the prison is short-staffed: "We're still working with two men on a landing. Yesterday that meant managing 48 men.

"From you open your first door until lunchtime lockup it's just bedlam. It's absolute chaos.

"We have prisoners openly snorting drugs in the rec rooms and we can do nothing about it due to the staffing levels.

"The only reason Maghaberry is still standing is because the prisoners are being compliant."

Asked if the prisoners are running the prison, he said: "As a general rule, yes.

"The only thing keeping a lid on it at the minute is the amount of drugs. Heroin, cocaine, diazepam... I've found tablets lying on the floor."

He added: "It's getting more frightening.

"Whats' it going to take? Somebody's going to have to die before they do something. We're getting officers getting assaulted every day.

"[Justice Minister David] Ford needs to take a long hard look at who he's employing to run the prison service and the managers need to take a long hard look, because from the bottom up it's not a pretty sight."

Earlier this month the high security prison was branded the most dangerous in the UK by inspectors.

A Department of Justice spokesman said today: “These allegations are being made by an anonymous officer.  Should they have issues there are processes in place where they can raise concerns with the local management team.”

He added: "Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland raised a number of serious issues in their Report following the unannounced inspection in May.  These were widely reported and the Minister, along with NIPS senior management, have responded both in the Assembly, the Justice Committee and the media.

"Northern Ireland Prison Service has published the actions that will address all the recommendations from the report and is confident that when the Inspectors return in January they will see significant improvement and a safer prison at Maghaberry.”

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