INCREASING quantities of mobile phones are being seized in prisons despite the introduction of airport-style security in all prisons and mobile phone blocking systems in three jails.
Official figures show that 1,685 mobile phones have been seized to the end of August this year. This compares with 2,047 for the whole of 2008 and 2,117 for 2007.
If the rate continues this year, it is predicted around 2,500 mobile phones will be seized by the end of 2009, a sharp jump on previous years.
The Prison Service says the high level of seizures is due to the success of their crackdown and claim the availability of mobiles has decreased in prisons.
A breakdown of the figures shows that large – and, in some cases, greater – numbers of mobile phones are getting into prisons, particularly those housing serious criminals and dissident republicans.
These prisons include Mountjoy, Limerick and Portlaoise, the country’s high security prison. According to figures supplied to the Irish Examiner, there have been:
* 680 mobiles seized in Mountjoy so far this year, compared with 580 in 2008 and 718 in 2007.
* 267 seizures in Limerick Prison, compared with 292 in 2008 and 255 in 2007.
* 166 mobiles confiscated in Wheatfield Prison, compared with 232 in 2008 and 193 in 2007.
* 103 seizures in Portlaoise Prison, compared with 41 in 2008 and 62 in 2007.
Some 1,051 mobiles were seized between May and August, compared with 634 between January and April, a rise of 66%. Ten of the 14 jails have seen increases.
Those showing the biggest increases are Portlaoise, Mountjoy and the Midlands, which also houses serious criminals, including Limerick gangsters.
The continuing use of mobiles is of particular concern given that phone inhibition systems are either fully or partially operational in three prisons: Midlands, Limerick and Mountjoy.
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