Home > Prison visiting committees annual reports, 2020.

Millar, Sean (2022) Prison visiting committees annual reports, 2020. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 82, Summer 2022, pp. 31-32.

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A visiting committee is appointed to each prison in Ireland 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 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 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 2020 is summarised below.1

Mountjoy Prison, Dublin

In its report, the Mountjoy Visiting Committee noted that many prisoners have come from a background of intergenerational deprivation, neglect, and poor health, and that the increased use of illegal substances in society is mirrored in the prison. Families, communities, staff, and individual prisoners may be targeted to take part in the supply, distribution or use of drugs. The committee observed that support and protection of vulnerable groups inside the prison and in the community requires further development and that a review of staffing resources in the health and drug counselling services in Mountjoy is recommended to enable a greater focus on infectious disease and substance abuse treatment.

Dóchas Centre, Dublin

The Dóchas Visiting Committee stated that based on its size the Dóchas Centre has a high number of cases presenting with psychosis, schizophrenia, and addiction. However, through the course of 2020, the consumption of illegal drugs was reduced considerably in the Dóchas Centre. The committee noted that this is likely in part because of the Covid-19 restrictions and also as a consequence of the more structured regime. Nevertheless, it was observed that overall there has been a noticeable decrease in the presence of drugs and the problems associated with drugs in the prison, which is a positive development.

Wheatfield Prison, Dublin

The Wheatfield Place of Detention Visiting Committee’s report observed that during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, there was a reduction in drugs getting into the prison and that prisoners reported feeling less stressed and that some prisoners saw it as an opportunity to live without drugs. However, drugs have since reappeared; the Wheatfield yards are large spaces covered with netting, yet it is a struggle to prevent drugs and objects being thrown over the perimeter wall. The committee felt very strongly that this issue should be tackled as an emergency, given that the pressure on prisoners to be involved in the supply of illegal drugs within the prison is a considerable burden and that prisoners should be protected from drug gangs whose driving force is to make money off the backs of prisoners and their families.

Cloverhill Prison, Dublin

In its report, the Cloverhill Visiting Committee noted that the amount of drugs circulating in the prison was considerably reduced during the peak time of the Covid-19 pandemic. This was partly due to the difficulties in landing drugs from the perimeter wall in the exercise yard of the prison, the reduced and manageable prison population, reduction in committal prisoners, and also from the practice of quarantine or isolation of new prisoners on presentation in Cloverhill. The committee also observed that despite the challenges of operating within the pandemic restrictions, the Addiction Counselling Service reported that service provision in 2020 had been successful; the service adjusted to the restrictions, offering sessions throughout the year. There was a slight increase in client engagement, with an average of six more sessions per month in 2020. The committee heard that clients and counsellors adapted well to video calls, reflecting the deep commitment of counsellors in keeping the service operative.

Arbour Hill Prison, Dublin

The Arbour Hill Visiting Committee’s report noted that 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% 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.

Loughan House, Co. Cavan

The Loughan House Visiting Committee heard that face-to-face addiction and counselling sessions were suspended due to Covid-19 restrictions in 2020. However, counselling staff made themselves available via a telephone-based service. This was coupled with the fact that prisoners in Loughan House are permitted their own mobile phone, meaning that Merchants Quay Ireland addiction team specialists remained fully accessible throughout the year.

Shelton Abbey Prison, Co. Wicklow

The Shelton Abbey Visiting Committee’s report noted that a full-time addiction counsellor was appointed in 2017, who is respected by offenders and regarded as a trusted listener, and who continues an induction/awareness meeting with all new committals. All prisoners are assessed to see if they have current or previous addiction issues and are offered one-to-one addiction counselling if required.

Midlands Prison, Co. Laois

The Midlands Prison Visiting Committee was informed that a general practitioner (GP) addiction specialist holds weekly sessions as part of the drug treatment service within the prison. In addition, the addiction counselling service in the prison is supported by Merchants Quay Ireland and includes one-to-one counselling and assessments.

1    Department of Justice (2022) Prison Visiting Committee annual reports 2020 [Arbour Hill Prison, Castlerea Prison, Cloverhill Prison, Cork Prison, Dóchas Centre, Limerick Prison, Loughan House, Midlands Prison, Mountjoy Prison, Portlaoise Prison, Shelton Abbey Prison, Wheatfield Prison]. Dublin: Department of Justice. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/35807/

Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
All substances
Intervention Type
Crime prevention
Issue Title
Issue 82, Summer 2022
September 2022
Page Range
pp. 31-32
Health Research Board
Issue 82, Summer 2022

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