Tony Geoghegan, director of Merchants Quay Ireland, backed the Irish Prison Service’s creation of a confidential helpline to combat the smuggling of drugs.
Speaking at the launch of the service, Mr Geoghegan said many inmates had drug problems and that prison provided treatment opportunities for them.
“Ambivalence is at the core of addiction,” he said. “They want to be drug free, but old habits die hard. The lure of drugs is very strong. There is no doubt that the availability of drugs within prisons seriously undermines people’s efforts to lead a better life and leave drugs behind.”
He said MQI provided 11,000 drug counselling sessions to 2,888 individuals in 2014 — an increase of 13%.
“The Irish Prison Service has a well-developed suite of drug services. This helpline is a very important initiative and my hope is it will limit availability.”
IPS director general Michael Donnellan said: “Drugs kill in prison, they cause devastation within the prison environment. We have at least two to three drug overdoses a year.”
He said it had a “devastating” effect on parents, partners, and children. He said 70% of the people admitted to prison had a drug addiction problem.
“Drugs in prison cannot be tolerated. There’s a myth out there that drugs keep things calm. It is the driver of mental ill health, it drives crime and criminality and drives violence.”
IPS figures show there were 677 recorded assaults in 2013, compared to 708 in 2014.
Some of the weapons were put on display at yesterday’s launch, including a “shiv” blade used to slash inmates. “The most barbaric weapon is a double razor blade,” said chief officer Ben Buckley. He explained that a cut with this leaves a permanent scar.
He said much of the violence was linked to the drugs trade and the intimidation placed on prisoners and their families to smuggle drugs in.
“Desperate people are taking desperate measures to get drugs into prison.”
Gangs target vulnerable inmates, such as those going to prison for the first time, and order them to bring in drugs: “If they don’t do it there will pay a price, a physical price unfortunately.”
Confidential Helpline 1800 855 717