Support groups for republican prisoners in Maghaberry have complained about the medical maltreatment of prisoners at the jail.
The length of time prisoners are forced to wait for medical appointments has been questioned, as well as an often violent strip searches required before and after such appointments.
A joint statement by the Irish Republican Welfare Association and Cogus this week said prisoners are being shackled to warders during what should be entirely private medical consultations. Some prisoners are also being denied access to essential treatments.
Tensions have been rising in recent months after prison authorities reneged on a deal reached in 2010 over forced strip searches and controlled movement.
In their statement, the prisoners said they are handcuffed to prison guards for their medical procedures and consultations, even while armed PSNI maintained guard outside the door. They are also forced to endure degrading forced strip searches going to and returning from hospital.
The local health body, the South Eastern Trust (SET) was also accused of failing to respond to health emergencies in a timely fashion. One prisoner who suffered a heart attack was initially denied medical treatment, they said, and was then only taken to hospital following a strip search. Prisoners with conditions such as diabetes are also being denied necessary treatments and foods.
“We wish to put on record that unless the situation is resolved, in a root and branch fashion, severe and detrimental issues relating to the life and well-being of all prisoners can only deteriorate to a point where lives are endangered,” they said.
“In the coming weeks the spotlight will be shone on all aspects of healthcare relating to prisoners. Those with responsibility for healthcare, staff and the treatment of prisoners would do well to take note.”
Concerns were also voiced about several prisoners being detained in the punishment block despite not being found guilty of breaking jail rules.
And in a separate statement issued through Republican Sinn Fein, republican political prisoners at Maghaberry warned of an effort to further downgrade visiting conditions at the jail. They said this had been stopped, but that a situation continued whereby visitors were still being denied basic privacy.
“We have made clear and unambiguous recommendations for visiting conditions in our ‘Conditions Document’, to which family life and privacy are central,” they said.
“The visits issue will not be resolved until these recommendations are implemented and respect and fair treatment are afforded to us and our families.”