Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answers 431, 432, 477 - Prison drug treatment services [25017/06, 25018/06, 24782/06].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answers 431, 432, 477 - Prison drug treatment services [25017/06, 25018/06, 24782/06]. (27 Jun 2006)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/dail/2...

431. Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform  when drug treatment and rehabilitation programmes will be made available to all drug misusers in prison. [25017/06]

432. Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the drug treatment and rehabilitation programmes available in each of the prisons here; the number of prisoners in each prison; the number of prisoners in each prison accessing the above services on 1 June 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25018/06]

477. Mr. Andrews asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress towards implementation of his drugs free policy for prisons here and in particular mandatory drug testing. [24782/06]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): I propose to take Questions Nos. 431, 432 and 477 together. The new Irish Prison Service Drugs Policy and Strategy, entitled Keeping Drugs Out of Prisons, was launched on 2 May last. This new policy fulfils the commitment in the Programme for Government to publish a plan to end all heroin use in Irish prisons as well as my own commitment to achieving a drug-free prison system. Working to fulfil these commitments will involve the implementation of stringent measures to prevent drugs from getting into prisons while, at the same time, continuing to invest in services within prisons to reduce the demand for illicit drugs in the prisoner population as well as meeting prisoners’ treatment and rehabilitative needs. The present Drug Treatment programmes are being expanded and enhanced with the further recruitment of psychologists and addiction counsellors as well as other staff. Advertisements for these positions have been placed in the national media and it is anticipated that these positions will be filled in the near future. The roll-out of the Drugs Policy and Strategy, including the enhancement of these programmes, has begun and I am confident that the targets set out will be reached, the major portion being implemented by end-2006 and the longer-term targets by end-2007. I shall forward a copy of the Policy and Strategy, which outlines the targets mentioned, to the Deputies. An important aim of the new Policy and Strategy is the operation of all treatment programmes within a coherent policy framework, understood and supported by all agencies involved in drug treatment within the prison system, with the ultimate aim being to provide access to drug treatment and rehabilitation programmes for all prisoners who wish to avail of them.

Drug rehabilitation programmes for prisoners involve a significant multidimensional input by a diverse range of general and specialist services provided both by the Irish Prison Service and visiting statutory and non-statutory organisations. The Irish Prison Service seeks to reduce the demand for drugs within the prison system through education, treatment and rehabilitation services for drug-addicted offenders. Particular initiatives put in place include a Drugs Detoxification programme, a programme of Substitution Therapies, a programme of Voluntary Drug Testing, health interventions, vaccination programmes and treatment for viral illnesses. As of 23rd June 2006, the number of prisoners in each prison was as follows; Institution / Number in Custodythe following figures for 2005 are indicative. The implementation of this Policy and Strategy has also seen an intensification of efforts in the prison system to eliminate the availability of illicit drugs within prisons. This Policy and Strategy involves the traditional means of effecting supply reduction - staff vigilance, physical searches and supervision of persons entering prisons and their reinforcement by means of improved facilities and procedures.

The Policy and Strategy also provides for a range of new measures to eliminate the supply of drugs into prisons: notably, enhanced visit security, the introduction of passive drug detection dogs and mandatory drug testing. I can advise the Deputy that new Visiting Card arrangements are in place in all but two of the closed prisons. The exceptions are Cloverhill Prison, where screened visits are the norm and where the population is much more fluid than others because of its status as a remand prison, and Portlaoise Prison where a pilot project is due to commence next month. Under the new Visiting Card arrangement, each prisoner is required to supply to prison authorities a short list of persons whom they wish to visit them. Only persons on this list who have been approved by the Governor are permitted to visit. Each prisoner must indicate in advance that he/she expects a visit and visitors are required to present photo identification confirming their identity. This policy should eliminate prisoners being forced or bullied into accepting a visit for the sole purpose of receiving contraband.

The Prison Service is also in the process of introducing a new system of visiting by appointment. As part of the new Policy, a passive drug detection dog was recently introduced into the Midlands Prison, with trials to be carried out from that base to other prisons during the next six months. If this scheme is successful it is envisaged that it would then be expanded to other sites of the prison estate. Early indications are that the dog is proving successful in discouraging the carriage of drugs into the Midlands Prison. The design of the new prison projects at Thornton Hall and Spike Island will also make it harder for contraband to enter the prison over the perimeter walls by means of locating recreation yards away from perimeter walls. Mandatory drug testing will play an important role in the overall strategy for tackling the scourge of drug use among prisoners. It will enable identification and referral of drug abusers to treatment programmes, enable enhanced focusing of resources and act as a deterrent to drug misuse. Mandatory drug testing will commence across the prison system once the new Prison Rules are introduced. I can advise the Deputies that the Irish Prison Service is currently drafting a document which will provide detailed instruction and guidance on the implementation of Mandatory Drug Testing.

Vol. 622 No. 3 Written Answers Tuesday, 27 June 2006

[To see the full debate, including tables, click this link to the Oireachtas website]

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