I still look over my shoulder, says ex-prison officer

The former officer said recruits to the prison service could not be paid highly enough
The former officer said recruits to the prison service could not be paid highly enough

A former prison officer has spoken of the dangers and hardships of the job, adding that more than 10 years after leaving the force he still watches his back for potential attackers.

The Co Antrim man, who held the post for around 20 years before retiring in the mid-2000s, said that recruits to the service could not be paid highly enough for the kind of trouble they face behind bars.

He had been injured in brawls down the years, and even had to have part of his leg removed after he once waded into the fray to stop a prisoner being attacked.

As to whether he was still mindful of his own security, he said: “It’s never going to end.

“Even though I’m out that amount of time, I still look over my back, over my shoulder.”

There were a number of reports of prisoners cheering and smoking cigars to celebrate Adrian Ismay’s recent murder.

“I’m listening to the news, and I can just see it,” said the ex-officer, whose name the News Letter has agreed to withhold.

“They did exactly the same thing 25 years ago if somebody was murdered or there was an explosion.”

According to the Prison Officers’ Association, the starting pay of officers was reduced from about £20,000 in 2010 to £18,000.

Meanwhile, a cap was put on their pay of £23,000 (later increased to £26,000).

“They’re exploiting the work situation at the moment,” said the former officer, suggesting that with few jobs around new recruits are simply happy to be offered any salary.

But he warned: “They don’t know what they’re letting themselves in for.”

Asked what a fair wage would be, he said: “You couldn’t give them enough.”

He spoke to the News Letter ahead of the burial of Mr Ismay.