The overall amount of contraband seized in Irish prisons last year dropped slightly — and there has been a significant decline in the amount of weapons found in jails.
Figures provided by the Irish Prison Service also show almost 100 fewer cases of drugs being found in jails in 2016 compared with the previous year, alongside a fall for the sixth consecutive year of visitors to prisons and a steady decline in the number of people arrested for allegedly trying to get contraband into prisons.
Last year 107 people were arrested in connection with contraband seizures, down from 128 arrests in 2015. The number of arrests last year is also around half of those made as recently as 2013, while the comparable figure in 2011 was 283 arrests.
A spokesman for the Prison Service said that additional security measures have been introduced in the past year, including the introduction of a new free confidential telephone line which means prisoners, visitors, staff or the public with information on the trafficking of prohibited items into jails can pass on that information in strictest confidence.
The confidential phone line will be in operation two years this summer and it is understood it has received more than 1,000 calls since it was first set up.
A Prison Service spokesman said the prison service is confident that seizures had been made as a direct result of the phoneline in which otherwise lives could have been lost.
Overall, 3,702 contraband seizures were made in prisons last year, down just nine from the figure in 2015.
However, while 648 phones were seized (up 22 on the previous year) the 715 drug seizures represent a fall of 93 on that for 2015, while the 435 seizures of weapons were down 129 on the comparable figure for 2015.
There were 1,904 seizures of “other” items in 2016, almost 200 more than in 2015. According to the Prison Service those items include things such as USB keys and DVDs, but is most likely alcohol including homebrewed ‘hooch’.
A prison-by-prison breakdown shows that the highest number of mobile phones seized last year was in Mountjoy, with 183, ahead of Limerick Prison with 119.
Wheatfield Prison had the highest number of drug seizures at 156, ahead of Mountjoy, which had 139 seizures, and the Midlands Prison with 99.
Wheatfield also had the highest number of weapons seized, with 104. Castlerea had the second highest amount of weapons seized, at 89. When it came to other items seized, Limerick Prison had by far the most with 697 confiscations, more than double the amount in jails such as Mountjoy and the Midlands Prison.
Castlerea, with 420 seizures of other items, had the second highest haul in that category.
Limerick was the only prison last year to see an increase in the number of items seized across all four categories compared with the comparable figures for 2015.
The Prison Service said it is still compiling figures on the number of staff assaulted while on duty.
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