701. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Justice the number of incidents in which conflict resolution methods such as dialogue were used by prison officers from 1 March 2020 to 1 March 2021; and the number of prison officers who received training in conflict resolution during the same period. [12705/21]
Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): The Irish Prison Service has informed me that it is not possible to quantify the total number of incidents that are resolved by prison officers using conflict resolution techniques, including the use of dialogue. The Deputy will appreciate that incidents of conflict can range from minor incidents or disagreements amongst prisoners, which are easily resolved through dialogue and communications, to more serious incidents including violent incidents where a more physical intervention is required.
De-escalation and communication are major components of the conflict resolution training given to all prison officers. They play a significant role in how they carry out their duties. Many incidents are resolved, where de-escalation, communication and the inter-personal skills of prison officers are used and prevent the need for a physical response. It is the case that many of these incidents would not be routinely recorded.
The use of a physical intervention is governed by Prison Rule 93 which states “w here, for the purpose of maintaining or restoring good order or safe or secure custody, it is deemed necessary to use force in relation to a Prisoner, such force only as is reasonably necessary and proportionate to achieve that purpose shall be used”. Physical interventions involving the use of force are governed by the Irish Prison Service Use of Force Standard Operating Procedures which states that that “ the Use of Force should only be undertaken as a last resort, after all other attempts to resolve or de-escalate the situation have failed .”
The Use of Force Continuum, set out in this Standard Operating Procedure, defines the appropriate response by an officer to varying levels of behaviour of prisoners. It is not necessary to progress through each stage, and the individual needs to decide on the appropriate actions, bearing in mind prison rule 93, as the situation demands. In compliance with Irish Prison Service Policy, de-escalation attempts are made throughout the varying stages.
I am advised by the Irish Prison Service that from, 1 March 2020 to 1 March 2021, 118 recruit prison officers received conflict resolution training in the Irish Prison Service College. In the same period 293 established prison officers received additional conflict resolution training as part of their continuous professional development. This figure is reduced from the previous year due to Covid - 19 measures which impacted on training.