The prison service expects fewer than 1,000 phones to be confiscated in jails this year, with figures also indicating that fewer people are smuggling drugs in to inmates.
The Irish Prison Service said that up to the middle of October, just 675 phones had been seized across the entire prison system, with seizures of other forms of contraband and weapons also down.
Last year a total of 1,150 phones were seized, with 336 phones recovered in Mountjoy alone, and two years ago almost 1,400 phones were seized.
So far this year, 190 phones have been seized in Mountjoy, where there has been 156 drug seizures out of a total 823 seizures.
The figures also show that as of Oct 16, there had been 767 seizures of weapons in Irish jails in 2013 and 1,399 other seizures of contraband including alcohol, sim cards, and phone chargers.
With 3,664 seizures in total made with less than a quarter of the year to go, the final tally is likely to come below the total for 2012 of 5,900. Mountjoy, Limerick Prison, the Midlands Prison and St Patrick’s Institution are the locations for most of the seizures, while jails such as Cork and Portlaoise have much smaller numbers of illegal items seized.
A spokesman for the prison service said the rate of seizures was due to improvements in security within the system, led by the Operational Support Group first set up in 2008.
In addition to the work of the dedicated search team, other measures include tighter control and monitoring of prison visits, airport style security screening of all staff and visitors, and X-ray scanners to scan all coats and bags.
The spokesman said: “Given the rate of seizure of phones at this stage of the year it is likely that the figure for the total seizures of phones across the prison system in 2013 will again show a significant decrease on the previous year.”
He said mobile phones are becoming increasingly small in size, meaning it is a tougher challenge for search teams.
Figures also how that 160 persons were arrested for attempting to smuggle drugs or contraband into an Irish prison up to Oct 13, compared to last year’s annual total of 276 arrests and the 283 arrests in 2011.
The Prison Service said random searches of cells and their occupants had uncovered significant quantities of contraband in recent years.
Jim Mitchell of the Irish Prison Officers’ Association said the figures indicated prison staff would be safer while working as a result.
“We have been in favour of enhanced security measures from the start,” he said, adding that prison staff had been maintaining standards with fewer resources.
* 675 phones seized in prisons so far this year.
* 823 drugs seizures.
* 767 weapons seized.
* 3,664 seizures made in total.
* Overall tally for 2013 expected to fall below that for 2012.
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