Irish Prisons awash with drugs – targeted action needed – Carey

Clare Fine Gael TD and Spokesperson on Juvenile Justice, Deputy Joe Carey has today said that Irish prisons are in danger of becoming awash with drugs unless concerted action is taken.

Deputy Carey was speaking as he released figures on the number of drug seizures in Irish prisons this year, which showed many are higher than the whole of 2009.

It also indicates that Mountjoy continues to have a serious issue, with 45% of all drug seizures made at the institution. Following Mountjoy, Limerick Prison is the next worst on the list, while worrying levels of drug seizures also took place at St Patrick’s Juvenile Institution.

Already this year there have been 1179 drug seizures in Irish prisons – which is just over 100 seizures short of the number for the whole of last year.

Deputy Carey recently visited St Patrick’s Institution and also met with campaigner Fr Peter McVerry in an attempt to highlight issues of drugs in Irish prisons.

Deputy Carey said:

“We must now allow our prisons to become awash with drugs. I was shocked recently to hear from Fr Peter McVerry on the state of some of our juvenile prisons and the mass availability of drugs. The figures presented confirm that there has been a huge rise in the numbers of drugs found in many facilities including St Patrick’s Institution on the Mountjoy campus. I visited this institution myself recently and saw first hand the challenges. Only one wing of that facility is currently drug free. We need some clarity on these figures to know how many of these seizures occur at point of entry and how many are seized from prisoners within the prison. As Fine Gael spokesperson on Juvenile Justice I will be pursuing this matter in the coming week in Dáil Éireann.

I read at the weekend ex Director of Mountjoy John Lonergan claiming that Mountjoy could never be drug free. That may be the case, but we must make it next to impossible to smuggle drugs into the facility. I welcome the fact that an intensified search regime is impacing on prison seizures, but the statistics show Mountjoy has a far higher number of seizures than any other Irish prison.

The statistics I obtained for drug seizures at Limerick Prison are very worrying. Already the number of seizures this year are significantly higher than the whole of last year. We have 75 seizures last year while there are 119 already in 2010. That represents almost an 40% rise on the numbers of seizures and we still have three months left in 2010. This needs to be tackled.

The costs to society of prisoners emerging with serious drug issues which remain untreated are enormous. We cannot allow prisons like Mountjoy and Limerick to become open houses for drug use. I would call on the relevant authorities to continue their vigilance in apprehending drugs within the system. This is not just a challenge for the individual prisons, but a challenge for the whole society. If we don’t change habits inside prison, then once prisoners emerge the difficulties become even greater.”

Deputy Joe Carey is available on (086) 4032019
Figures received through Dáil questioning below.

DÁIL QUESTION addressed to the Minister for Justice and Law Reform (Mr. Ahern)
by Deputy Joe Carey
for WRITTEN on Wednesday, 29th September, 2010.  

*  To ask the Minister for Justice and Law Reform the quantity, type and value of drug seizures in each prison for 2007, 2008, 2009 and to date in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

– Joe Carey
I wish to inform the Deputy that prior to May 2008 seizures of drugs were recorded under the generic description “prohibited articles” and accordingly a detailed breakdown is not available.

From May 2008 (when Operation Support Group came into operation) to 31 December 2008, there were 351 drug seizures within the Irish Prison Service.  Figures for 2009 and up until the 12 September 2010 are set out in the table below. It is important to note that many of these seizures occur at point of entry to the prisons and do not enter the prison system. I have asked Irish Prison Service to consider how reporting systems can be modified to differentiate between seizures within the prison and at point of entry to the prison.

Prisons do not have the facilities to test the type or quantity of substances found. Gardaí are contacted once suspected drug seizures are made and issues for investigation and prosecution fall within their remit.

Prison/Place of Detention
Number of Drug Seizures in 2009
Number of Drug Seizures in 2010 (up to 12/9/2010)
Arbour Hill Prison
Castlerea Prison
Cloverhill Prison
Cork Prison
Dóchas Centre
Limerick Prison
Loughan House
Midlands Prison
Mountjoy Prison (male)
Portlaoise Prison
Shelton Abbey
St. Patrick’s Institution
Training Unit
Wheatfield Prison

A number of new security initiatives have been introduced in all closed prisons including:

  • The introduction of enhanced security screening for all persons (visitors and staff) entering our prisons
  • The establishment of a drug detection dog service within the Irish Prison Service involving approximately 30 handling teams
  • The establishment of Operational Support Units dedicated to and developing expertise in searching and gathering intelligence on illicit material being hidden inside our prisons; they will be available in addition to the normal prison staff and can target specific security problem areas; and
  • The Body Orifice Security Scanner (BOSS) chair was introduced by the Irish Prison Service in early 2008 and to date eight chairs have been installed.

The new security screening at prison entrances and the range of measures introduced have had considerable success in preventing the flow of and assisting in the capture of contraband such as illicit drugs. I am determined to take all reasonable measures to ensure that we stem the flow of illicit substances into our prisons.

In tandem with the emphasis on enhanced security measures, the Irish Prison Service continues to implement its Drug Policy and Strategy.  Part of the implementation of the Strategy includes continued significant investment in services within prisons to reduce the demand for illicit drugs in the prisoner population through meeting prisoners’ treatment and rehabilitative needs. For example, we have recently renewed the contract for the provision of Addiction Counsellor Services with Merchants Quay Ireland providing an average of 1500 prisoner contacts per month.