Battle to keep jails drug-free in ‘tatters’

Drugs are freely available in prisons and the battle to keep out them out is in “tatters”, according to a report by the Drug Policy Action Group (DPAG).

The drugs problem in prisons is as serious as ever and probably worsening, according to the author of the report which came out today, Paul O’Mahony.

He said the Irish Prison Service was facing “immensely difficult challenges” in dealing with drug problems among prisoners.

The report, Key Issues For Drugs Policy In Irish Prisons, concludes that the prison service “has long failed and is continuing to fail” to meet these challenges.

“There is irrefutable research evidence from surveys and from the results of mandatory testing that many drug users continue to take drugs while in prison. There is even substantial evidence that people begin drug use, or graduate to more serious forms of drug use, while in prison,” it reads.

Mr O’Mahony said the realities of prison life means that for many prisoners drugs were never more attractive and available than in prison.

Since 2006, the official policy of the Department of Justice has been to maintain a totally drugs-free prison system.

The policy relies on a range of security measures designed to eliminate the supply of drugs in prisons, a strategy which DPAG said was “unrealistic” as well as tending to undermine efforts to reduce drug-related harm.

Seán Cassin, chairman of the DPAG, said the prison drugs policy was “already in tatters”.

“Policies and services inside and outside of prison are fragmented, underdeveloped and poorly resourced,” he stated.

The DPAG policy paper, while acknowledging “significant improvement in the medical services for drug-using prisoners”, warned that poor prison conditions generally, as well as the lack of psychological support and rehabilitation services, were contributing to the drugs culture in prisons.

Article courtesy of the Evening Echo newspaper.

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