Over 1,100 drug seizures in prisons last year

Prison officers made more than 1,100 drug seizures in Irish prisons last year as part of ongoing efforts to clamp down on contraband.

Over 1,100 drug seizures in prisons last year

Prison officers made more than 1,100 drug seizures in Irish prisons last year as part of ongoing efforts to clamp down on contraband.

New figures released by the Irish Prison Service (IPS) under FoI show that despite security nets, sniffer dogs, and enhanced CCTV, the level of contraband flowing through Irish prisons continues to increase.

In recent years, the IPS has installed security nets to prevent contraband being thrown over walls. It has also increased CCTV monitoring and introduced airport-style scanners and X-ray machines to improve detection.

However, amid these efforts, there were 1,138 drug seizures last year, more than three each day. It is an increase from 1,018 in 2017. Wheatfield Prison had the most seizures of any prison at 403, while there were 221 in Mountjoy and 155 in Cloverhill.

The Prison Service clarified that it is “not in a position to state if any of these items are illegal drugs as no testing is conducted on substances found within the prison”.

It added that the figures include items recovered from sources other than the prison population, including security nets and visitors.

Similarly, there have been increases in the number of mobile phones and weapons seizures.

There were 962 phones confiscated from prisoners in Irish prisons last year, an increase from 872 in 2017. It included 224 in Wheatfield and 296 in Mountjoy, as well as 55 in Cork.

Weapon seizures also increased, with 664 weapons confiscated last year. In 2017, this was just 557.

During searches, prison officers also secured approximately 756 pints of homemade alcohol, or “hooch”. The potent homebrew is left to ferment in cells having been made from basic ingredients, like fruit or bread.

The largest quantity of hooch was seized at Castlerea prison in Co Roscommon, where 301 pints were confiscated by prison officers. Some 107 pints were confiscated in Cork Prison, with 192 pints seized in Mountjoy.

Responding to the figures, a spokesperson for the IPS said that they “recognise that constant improvements are required” in tackling the flow of contraband.

“Preventing the access of contraband into prisons remains a high priority for the IPS,” said the spokesperson.

“Concerted efforts are made on a continuous basis to prevent the flow of drugs into our prisons by, for example, the installation of nets over exercise yards, vigilant observation of prisoners by staff, enhanced CCTV monitoring, the stricter control of visits, and the use of targeted and random cell searches on a daily basis.

“As well as this, the introduction of passive and active drug detection dogs and the installation of airport-style security including scanners and X-ray machines has helped efforts to tackle the problem. Random searches of cells and their occupants have uncovered significant quantities of contraband in recent years.”

The IPS has also introduced a free confidential phone line for prisoners, visitors, staff, or the public to pass on information about the trafficking of prohibited items into prisons.

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