Fri, 12 Feb, 2021 – 15:46 Up
More than one-in-five of all members of the country’s leading criminal gangs who are currently serving jail sentences are due for release from prison this year.
Figures published by the Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, show that 39 inmates out of 183 prisoners in custody who are associated with known criminal gangs are expected to be let out of jail before the end of 2021.
Ms McEntee said the figures were estimates as it was not possible to provide definitive figures on the number of known members of criminal gangs currently behind bars.
“Membership or allegiance of these criminal groups fluctuates on a continuous basis with some persons breaking links and others becoming affiliated on a daily basis,” she added.
The minister said criminal gangs may also group together, while others splinter due to family or in-house disputes.
It is estimated there are members of around 14 organised crime groups, including the notorious Kinahan and Hutch gangs, in custody at the moment.
The figures, which were provided by the Irish Prison Service in response to a parliamentary question by Fine Gael TD Bernard Durkan, do not include subversive prisoners held in Portlaoise Prison.
The minister said specialist programmes, including a gang desistance group, were being developed and facilitated with the assistance of men with a history of gang involvement.
In addition, she said the IPS used a full range of policies and procedures to identify, monitor and manage specific individuals.
“Management and staff have to ensure that the various factions are kept apart and, as far as possible, that gang members do not have influence over other inmates or criminal activities outside the prisons,” Ms McEntee said.
She said measures taken by prison officers on a continuous basis included targeted searches, the placement of prisoners in high-security locations and the close supervision of all visits, including the use of screened visits and the barring of certain visitors.
Ms McEntee said the operational support group, which operates in the majority of the country’s 13 prisons to prevent the direction of crime by inmates and to detect prohibited articles within prisons, also had a core function to gather and collate intelligence information on criminal gang members while in custody.
The IPS and gardaí also maintain regular contact to discuss security issues around the operation of criminal gangs and the release of gang members from prison.
Ms McEntee said a suite of assessment and intervention pathways were available to violent offenders in custody to address their high risk of re-offending on release from prison.
In response to a separate question by Mr Durkan, the Courts Service said it did not collate information in such a way as to be able to state how many organised crime gang members had been brought before the courts last year.