Home > Dáil Éireann debate. Questions 541 - Prison service [rehabilitation] [34347/23].

[Oireachtas] Dáil Éireann debate. Questions 541 - Prison service [rehabilitation] [34347/23]. (11 Jul 2023)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/question/2023...

541. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice the number of persons currently in drug rehabilitation programmes in prison; the number of prisoners awaiting access to such programmes; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34347/23]

Helen McEntee, Minister for Justice: The Prison Service provides a health care service for prisoners with addictions in a structured, safe and professional basis in line with international best practice. The Prison Service continues to be committed to, and involved with, the National Drugs Strategy in partnership with community colleagues and organisations. It is the policy of the Service that, where a person committed to prison gives a history of opiate use and tests positive for opioids, they are offered a medically assisted, symptomatic detoxification, if clinically indicated. Patients can, as part of the assessment process, discuss other treatment options with healthcare staff; those treatment options may include stabilisation on methadone maintenance for persons who wish to continue on maintenance while in prison, and when they return to the community on release. I am further advised that while drug treatment services are provided in all closed prisons, the same type of programmes are not offered in open prisons as a condition of transfer to an open prison is that the prisoner is drug free.

In May, 813 prisoners received drug stabilisation or methadone maintenance during the month. There is no waiting list to access the above supports.

I can further advise the Deputy that, the Irish Prison Service engages Merchants Quay Ireland (MQI) to provide a prison-based addiction counselling service across the entire Irish Prison Service estate with the exception of Arbour Hill Prison where there is no clinical need for such a service in that prison. The addiction counselling service includes structured assessments and evidence-based counselling interventions, with clearly-defined treatment plans and goals.

The MQI service provides a range of counselling and intervention skills related to substance misuse and dependency. These skills include, motivational interviewing and enhancement therapy, a twelve step facilitation programme, cognitive behavioural therapy and harm reduction approaches. Prisoners are offered one to one counselling and group work interventions.

In May 2023 MQI completed a total of 1,617 client interventions. This total was made up of 739 counselling sessions, 211 brief interventions, 586 group assessments and 81 assessments.

The Irish Prison Service and MQI prioritise those prisoners that are in greatest clinical need and will work closely as part of a multi-disciplinary team to manage the waiting list with team leaders reviewing caseloads with each counsellor monthly to ensure that cases are closing appropriately.

Prisoners who are closer to release are prioritised and MQI try to identify available services in the community in order that there is continuity of care.

The information requested by the Deputy on the number of prisoners who are currently on waiting lists to access addiction services by prison is provided in the table below.


Number currently on waiting list













Loughan House


Shelton Abbey








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