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Home > 5. Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps being taken to end the flow of drugs to prisons, in view of the disclosure that inmates have tested positive for drugs 40,000 times over the past three years; the prisons or places of detention that are regarded as drug free. [14052/08]

[Oireachtas] 5. Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the steps being taken to end the flow of drugs to prisons, in view of the disclosure that inmates have tested positive for drugs 40,000 times over the past three years; the prisons or places of detention that are regarded as drug free. [14052/08]. (17 Apr 2008)

URL: http://debates.oireachtas.ie/dail/2008/04/17/00038...


Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Deputy Brian Lenihan): A wide range of security measures are currently in place aimed at reducing the supply of contraband, including drugs, into our prisons. These measures include: Tighter control and monitoring of prisoner visits in all closed prisons; New visiting arrangements in most closed prisons, with visitors required to be pre-approved by the Governor and required to provide identification on each visit; Greater use of screened visits; Greater vigilance in examining mail by prison censors and searching of other items entering the prison; Increased random searching of cells and their occupants; Stricter searching of all persons committed to custody and prisoners returning from court, temporary release, after visits or on receipt of intelligence; Use of modern cameras and probe systems which assist in searching previously difficult areas such as hollow chair or bed legs, under floor boards and other cavities; Installation of nets over exercise yards to prevent access to contraband items, including mobile phones and drugs; and Use of phone detectors and phased installation of telephone blocking technology.

In addition, a number of new security initiatives are shortly being 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; and 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. There are currently drug free units in the following prisons — Wheatfield Prison, St. Patrick’s Institution, Castlerea Prison and Mountjoy Prison. There is also an intensive detox programme in operation in Mountjoy Prison. Allied to this the Training Unit, Arbour Hill Prison, Loughan House and Shelton Abbey are regarded as drug free institutions. It is extremely difficult to quantify the numbers of prisoners who can be deemed to be drug free, particularly given the secretive and covert nature of illicit drug taking in a custodial setting. In this context, the Prison Rules 2007, effective from 1 October 2007, include specific provisions for mandatory drug testing.

Mandatory drug testing provides information on trends in drug misuse, enables the identification and referral of drug abusers to treatment programmes, enables enhanced focusing of resources and acts as a deterrent to drug misuse. At present, mandatory drug testing takes place in the Training Unit, St. Patrick’s Institution, Castlerea Prison, Loughan House and Shelton Abbey and the intention is to roll out a programme of testing to the remaining institutions during 2008.

Vol. 652 No. 1
Written Answers
Thursday, 17 April 2008

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