Skip Page Header

Home > Prison visiting committee annual reports, 2018.

Millar, Sean (2020) Prison visiting committee annual reports, 2018. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 75, Autumn 2020, pp. 21-22.

PDF (Drugnet 75)

A visiting committee is appointed to each Irish prison under the Prisons (Visiting Committees) Act 1925 and the Prisons (Visiting Committees) Order 1925. Members of the 12 visiting committees are appointed by the Minister for Justice and Equality for a term not exceeding three years. The function of prison visiting committees is to visit, at frequent intervals, the prison to which they are appointed and hear any complaints that may be made to them by any prisoner. They report to the Minister for Justice and Equality regarding any abuses observed or found, and any repairs which they think are urgently needed. Prison visiting committee members have free access, either collectively or individually, to every part of the prison to which their committee is appointed. Information from prison visiting committee reports relating to drug use in prisons for 2018 is summarised below.1

Mountjoy Prison, Dublin

In its report, the Mountjoy Visiting Committee2 noted that substance abuse and related activity is contributing to risk to both prisoners and staff, with a reported increase in intimidation, violence, and injury to physical and mental health. Practices and endeavours to disrupt the inflow of drugs need continued attention in the interests of both prisoners and staff. The committee also observed that a number of male prisoners enter the prison from conditions where physical, mental, and dental health may have been chronically neglected due to substance abuse and other circumstances. Consequently, it is likely that the most vulnerable individuals are falling through the gaps in community-based mental health services and are sentenced to imprisonment where mental health problems and the risk of self-harm may be intensified.

The lack of permanent posts in the treatment teams and the significant shortage of beds in a secure mental-health inpatient treatment unit was also noted as a cause of serious concern. The committee heard that prisoners regularly highlight their wish for drug addiction counselling and furthermore for a drug-free section in the prison following effective treatment. The committee stated that it is regrettable that some prisoners who successfully complete drug treatment regress while awaiting supportive accommodation in transition, or when they return to inadequate services in the community.

Dóchas Centre, Dublin

The Dóchas Visiting Committee noted in its report3 that they had received complaints about the presence of illicit drugs within Dóchas. Many women had told the committee that they are afraid to leave their rooms for fear of aggressive behaviour from prisoners under the influence of illicit drugs. The committee observed that this problem appeared to be growing and urged that all the necessary resources be used to tackle this serious development.

Wheatfield Prison, Dublin

The Wheatfield Place of Detention Visiting Committee’s report4 observed that the Wheatfield yards are large spaces. Although the yards are covered with netting in order to prevent drugs and objects being thrown over the perimeter wall, this continues to be a considerable difficulty for the authorities in Wheatfield Prison. The committee recommended that more netting and a solution to the security of the perimeter wall are essential to prevent illicit contraband entering the prison. The committee also noted that illicit drugs continue to be a serious and ongoing difficulty both for the prison authorities and also for prisoners and their families. Despite the best efforts of the authorities in Wheatfield Prison, scanners, sniffer dogs, X-ray and bags searches, and the perimeter wall being monitored daily, drugs continue to enter the prison.

Cloverhill Prison, Dublin

In its report, the Cloverhill Visiting Committee5 noted that the issue of drugs and security measures at Cloverhill remain a deep concern. In particular, drugs coming over the wall from boundaries outside the prison confines and over the netting continue to be a huge problem, given the increase in drugs from this source. The committee was informed that when prisoners retrieve some of these drugs, by climbing walls, it can lead to serious injury, with one hospitalisation in 2018. The committee was told that the problem is being addressed by prison authorities, with extensive building work being carried out to secure netting and any areas of the perimeter that allow access to prisoners.

Arbour Hill Prison, Dublin

The Arbour Hill Visiting Committee’s report6 noted that incidents relating to drugs within the prison remained exceptionally low in 2018, and complimented the prison management and staff on this matter. Arbour Hill remains fully committed to ensuring that the prison remains drug-free. All prisoners are fully aware that they are expected to be 100 per cent drug-free and access to the prison’s facilities and services depend on this. Random drug testing is part of the day-to-day routine at the prison.

Shelton Abbey Prison, Co. Wicklow

The Shelton Abbey Visiting Committee’s report7 noted that a full-time addiction counsellor was appointed in 2017, who is respected by offenders and noted as a trusted listener. A number of addiction-related programmes took place at Shelton Abbey during 2018.


1  Department of Justice and Equality (2020) Prison visiting committee annual reports 2018. Dublin: Department of Justice and Equality. Available online at:

2  Mountjoy Visiting Committee (2020) Annual report for 2018 to Minister for Justice and Equality Charles Flanagan TD from Mountjoy Visiting Committee. Dublin: Department of Justice and Equality.

3  Dóchas Visiting Committee (2020) 2018 Annual report Dóchas Visiting Committee. Dublin: Department of Justice and Equality.

4  Wheatfield Place of Detention Visiting Committee (2020) Visiting Committee 2018 annual report for Wheatfield Prison. Dublin: Department of Justice and Equality.

5  Cloverhill Visiting Committee (2020) Annual report 2018 from Cloverhill Visiting Committee to the Minister for Justice and Equality Charles Flanagan TD. Dublin: Department of Justice and Equality.

6  Arbour Hill Visiting Committee (2020) Arbour Hill Prison Visiting Committee annual report 2018. Dublin: Department of Justice and Equality.

7  Shelton Abbey Visiting Committee (2020) Visiting Committee annual report 2018: Shelton Abbey. Dublin: Department of Justice and Equality.

Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
All substances
Intervention Type
Harm reduction
Issue Title
Issue 75, Autumn 2020
Page Range
pp. 21-22
Health Research Board
Issue 75, Autumn 2020

Repository Staff Only: item control page