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Home > An exploration of prisoners' and prison staff's perceptions of the methadone maintenance programme in Mountjoy Male Prison, Dublin, Republic of Ireland.

Carlin, Tony (2005) An exploration of prisoners' and prison staff's perceptions of the methadone maintenance programme in Mountjoy Male Prison, Dublin, Republic of Ireland. Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy , 12 , (5) , pp. 405-416.

This study, which was based in Ireland's main committal prison, used semi-structured interviews and a focus group to explore the perceptions of staff and prisoners towards methadone maintenance within the prison setting. Although the research subjects identified advantages and disadvantages associated with methadone prescribing within the prison, they were generally positive in their assessment of Mountjoy's methadone programme. Prisoners perceived it as leading to an improvement in their relationships with their families, while staff viewed it as facilitating a more stable and safer working environment. However, although prisoners' use of heroin had reportedly declined since the advent of the methadone maintenance programme in the prison, their use of other drugs had not.

There were negative views expressed by both groups about the manner in which methadone is dispensed within the prison, and also because methadone was viewed as being as addictive as heroin. Regarding perceptions of the purpose of methadone maintenance, there was a spectrum of interpretations among the interviewees. Five purposes were identified. These were: (1) to ensure continuity of harm reduction policies from the community; (2) to reduce the supply of heroin in the prison; (3) to prevent needle sharing and the spread of blood-borne infections; (4) to treat heroin addiction; and (5)to control prisoners and maintain order and discipline within the prison. Apropos the latter, there was a widely held perception within the total sample that this latent function of methadone maintenance could be seen as of greater importance than the more conventional harm-reduction functions that were also identified.

 

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