There were almost 800 drug seizures in Irish prisons in the first nine months of this year, the Department of Justice has confirmed.
Mountjoy accounted for 310 of the seizures, followed by Wheatfield with 126 and Midlands Prison with 100.
Castlerea, Cloverhill, and Limerick prisons had the next highest numbers at 60, 61, and 57 respectively while in Cork prison, drugs were confiscated 16 times.
In a parliamentary question response confirming there had been a total of 773 seizures up to September 17, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan also said the Irish Prison Service is planning to review the ‘Keeping Drugs out of Prison’ policy in 2018.
“The central purpose of the policy, keeping drugs out of prison, is under constant review by my officials in the Irish Prison Service,” he said.
“My officials are constantly exploring new technologies to assist in preventing the smuggling of drugs into prison, and also new technologies to assist in finding and retrieving any drugs which have actually made it into the prisons themselves.”
As an example, he said the prison service has introduced a confidential telephone line which lets prisoners and members of the public to alert authorities, in strict confidence, of activities related to the illegal smuggling and use of drugs in prisons.
He said the policy is not just about the security element but also deals with treatments for prisoners.
Separately, Mr Flanagan confirmed that six prison officers are on sick leave after allegedly being assaulted by prisoners. A further 13 prison service employees are absent on sick leave as a result of other, unspecified “occupational injuries”.
Answering a parliamentary questions from Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness, Mr Flanagan said where an absence is deemed to be occupational injury or disease-related, the employee is entitled to 183 days full pay in a rolling one-year period after which they will be placed on half pay and to 365 days in a rolling four-year period after which they will be removed from the payroll.
However, he added that, in 2015, the director general of the prison service obtained sanction from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform for a Serious Physical Assault Scheme for prison officers which allows that, in cases where an officer has suffered a serious physical assault, full pay may be sanctioned up to a maximum of 12 months.
Last year, a report by the State Claims Agency found that assaults on prison staff had cost the State almost €30m since 2008.
It said that in 2015, 93 (3%) of prison staff were directly assaulted by prisoners but added that, given there were 17,206 committals to prison in 2015, the ratio of assaults was low.
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