Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 269 - Drugs in prisons [21346/09].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 269 - Drugs in prisons [21346/09]. (26 May 2009)

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269. Deputy Seán Power asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the progress made and his plans to reduce the amount of illegal drug consumption in prisons here; [21346/09]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Deputy Dermot Ahern):  The Irish Prison Service continues to work to implement its Drugs Policy & Strategy, entitled Keeping Drugs Out of Prison, which was launched in May 2006. Working to fulfil the commitments contained in the Policy and Strategy involves 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.

Elimination of Supply

The implementation of the Drugs Policy and Strategy has seen an intensification of efforts to eliminate the availability of illicit drugs within prisons including; 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; Use of Body Orifice Security Scanner (BOSS) chairs; Installation of nets over exercise yards to prevent access to contraband items, including mobile phones and drugs; Use of phone detectors and phased installation of mobile phone inhibition technology.

The Deputy will be aware that in June 2007 the Government approved the resources necessary to introduce a package of security measures which target the routes whereby contraband such as drugs are trafficked into our prisons. As a result, 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 31 handling teams; The establishment of Operational Support Units dedicated to, and developing expertise in, searching and gathering intelligence in our prisons.

Reducing Demand

The drug treatment programmes currently in place seek to reduce the demand for drugs within the prison system through education, treatment and rehabilitation services for drug addicted prisoners. Particular initiatives include, inter alia , the provision of detoxification, methadone maintenance, education programmes, addiction counselling and drug therapy programmes.

At present, any person entering prison giving a history of opiate use and testing positive for opioids on committal are offered a medically assisted symptomatic detoxification if clinically indicated. Patients can, as part of the assessment process, discuss with healthcare staff other treatment options which may include stabilization on methadone maintenance for persons who wish to continue on maintenance while in prison and when they return to the community on release. Methadone maintenance is available in 8 of the 14 places of detention (accommodating over 80% of the prison population). The table below provides the number of prisoners who received opiate substitution treatment with methadone (detox, stabilisation or maintenance) since 2003.

Methadone Treatment Per Person 

  Number of Prisoners Treated
Prison 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
Cloverhill 591 528 571 678 710 827
Dochas 257 211 228 216 225 245
Limerick 15 3 4 8 10 37
Midlands 6 6 19 90 110
Mountjoy 592 394 590 464 594 553
Portlaoise 30 6 2 2 3 4
St.Patrick’s 43 3 1 8 15 28
Wheatfield 226 158 162 184 193 210
TOTALS 1,754 1,309 1,564 1,579 1,840 2,014


Methadone Treatment Per Person

The IPS has committed significant investment in recent years in responding to addiction issues in the prison system. The most significant recent development has been the awarding of a contract for the provision of addiction counselling services to Merchants Quay Ireland. This contract has been rolled out, and addiction counselling services are now available in prisons and places of detention where prisoners require such a service. The addiction counselling service delivers approximately 1000 hours per week of prisoner access to addiction counselling.

In addition, the Medical Unit in Mountjoy Prison has 9 spaces specifically allocated for a therapeutic drug free programme. This programme is 6 weeks in duration and includes involvement from both prison based staff and external community agencies. Its aim is to assist prisoners in achieving a drug free status.

Vol. 683 No. 3
Written Answers
Tuesday, 26 May 2009


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