Maghaberry prison authorities are trying to drive conditions for prisoners on the republican wing back to those of the 1970s, according to reports from inside the jail.
Prisoners are being strip-searched at least once a week.
One prisoner, who did not want to be named, has accused the authorities of punishing those who had opted to go on the republican wing. He said he believed that conditions could do long-term damage to prisoners’ health.
“It’s very stressful,” he said. “Long term, it could institutionalise republicans and maybe affect their health. We’re on 22-hour lock-up and 18-hour lock-up, day about.”
He said the strip-searches were humiliating.
“It’s not something you ever get used to. You’re never comfortable being bollock naked in front of other men.
“Prisoners must eat meals in their eight foot by 12 foot [2.4 by 3.7 metre] cells, which also contain their toilets. You’re eating in the bathroom. There is limited ventilation. You can’t walk away from the smell. It can’t be good.”
Republican prisoners have only limited access to fresh air, in a yard approximately 11 metres by 12 metres. Some warders use sleep-deprivation techniques.
“Every hour, they’re opening the flap in the door and shining a powerful light in your face, then banging the flap and kicking the door,” said the prisoner.
“Kick one door and everybody on the landing is wakened. You get that four or five times a night. You don’t get any sleep.”
Only three prisoners can be unlocked at any one time because of the policy of controlled movement. Three prisoners can associate but they are locked in a cell.
The prison search team caries out its work in a group of about 20.
The prisoner said: “One guy was attacked three weeks ago. We could hear the roars and squeals of him.
“When they come in to search, they vandalise your cell.
“Last week, one prisoner had done handkerchiefs, the only handicraft we are allowed. They took them away.
“They wrote remarks of a sexual nature on the back of photos of his mother and a girl he knew.”
Despite losing his son James in the 1998 Omagh bombing, Victor Barker described the relations and loved ones of Real IRA prisoners in England as ‘innocent parties’ who are punished by having to travel long distances for visits.
Barker made his call last week after supporters of the Real IRA staged a rally at Free Derry Corner demanding that several hardline republicans, including brothers Aiden and Robert Hulme, be transferred to jails near their families in Ireland.
Armagh man Joe Magee was given a life sentence in 2004 for his part in the 1992 killing of the British army recruitment officer Michael Newman in Derby.