Thousands of weapons being seized in Irish prisons

Irish prisons are awash with contraband with 15,000 illegal items — including thousands of weapons — seized in jails in the past two years.

New statistics show that in the past two years there were 3,156 drug seizures in Irish prisons while 2,787 weapons were also seized.

In total 15,067 items were seized by prison officers in 2010 and 2011 — with one-third of all items confiscated from inmates at Mountjoy. The staggering quantity of material, which also includes mobile phones, SIM cards and other items, show the sheer scale of contraband flowing through the nation’s jails.

Leading the way is Mountjoy, where 4,784 illegal items were seized by prison staff in 2010 and 2011.

There were 1,625 seizures at St Patrick’s Institution for Young Offenders, located in the same prison complex, in the same two-year period, while even the Dochas Women’s Centre in the same part of Dublin city had 261 illegal items of contraband confiscated in the same period.

Last year 256 weapons were confiscated by staff at St Patrick’s Institution — the highest figure in the country of any detention facility. The revelation came as Senator Gillian van Turnhout told an Oireachtas health committee yesterday that 45 16 and 17-year-olds are currently being detained there.

Irish Penal Reform Trust executive director Liam Herrick said the overall figures regarding weapons seized were “absolutely terrifying” and that the number of seizures in St Pat’s were “grave cause for concern”.

“It really is a shocking indictment of the prison system,” he said, adding that overcrowding and poor physical conditions were exacerbated by growing levels of tension and violence.

Limerick Prison had 1,884 items seized, followed by Wheatfield in Dublin with 1,501 items and then the Midlands Prison, with 1,187 items confiscated.

Other prisons had smaller numbers of seizures, including Cork Prison, which had 514 items confiscated in the past two years, and Portlaoise Prison, where 385 items were seized in the past two years.

Jail figures

* 15,067 contraband items seized in 2010-11.

* 2,787 weapons confiscated.

* 3,156 drug seizures.

* 4,784 illegal items seized in Mountjoy in last two years.

* Number of weapons seized in Wheatfield and Cork doubled last year.

* 40 prisoners on the run for more than a year.

More in this section