The new National Forensic Mental Health facility will be equipped with 13 high-tech scanners at a cost of €750,000 to prevent drugs, weapons and other contraband being smuggled into serious offenders who have been deemed legally insane.
Four full-body scanners, five bag scanners, and five scanners for detecting drugs and explosives will be installed at entry points to the €140-million facility, which will replace the Central Mental Hospital next year.
The HSE is currently seeking tenders for the state-of-the-art scanners, which it has compared to the technology that features in airport security lobbies.
The full-body scanners will be able to pinpoint prohibited metal objects “on or in a person’s body”, according to the tender documents. These include guns, knives, lighters, keys, phones, razor blades, bullets and USBs.
The bag scanners, one of which will be designed for larger luggage, will also scan for these items and will be able to assist with the detection of explosives, the technical specifications state.
Four drug scanners will be able to detect illicit substances including cocaine, cannabis, opiates, benzodiazepines, and methamphetamines. They will also alert security staff to the presence of a broad range of explosives.
The total estimated cost of the security scanners is €750,000 excluding VAT.
The existing Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum has no such equipment, and relies on visual searches and hand-held metal detectors to prevent an inflow of contraband.
Despite the absence of such technology, the hospital has “a good track record” of stopping drugs and weapons from entering the facility, according to a HSE spokesperson.
“That said, there is always a risk present that such items can end up in the hospital by a number of routes and, as such, we need to ensure to the best of our ability that this does not happen,” they stated.
“Modern technology will greatly assist staff in maintaining a safe and therapeutic environment, which is our primary goal for staff, patients and visitors.”
The Central Mental Hospital detains and treats people who have committed offences but have been found not guilty by reason of insanity by the courts. Last year, 42% of the patients at the facility had been charged with or convicted of murder.
Other offences committed by patients included attempted abduction of a child, sexual assault, false imprisonment, and threats to set a Garda station alight, according to the annual report of the Mental Health (Criminal Law) Review Board.
The 130-bed National Forensic Mental Health facility in Portrane is expected to cost around €140 million, and is on course to become operational next year.