Overcrowding and drug abuse flagged in Cork Prison

Overcrowding and drug abuse flagged in Cork Prison

Cork Prison Visiting Committee suggested the purchase of a full-body X-ray scan should be considered to help reduce the smuggling of drugs.

Prisoners sleeping on the floor and the availability of drugs were two of the main issues raised by the Cork Prison Visiting Committee in its [url=

http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Cork%20Prison%20Visiting%20Committee%20Annual%20Report%202019.pdf/Files/Cork%20Prison%20Visiting%20Committee%20Annual%20Report%202019.pdf] latest report[/url].

The committee suggested the purchase of a full-body X-ray scan should be considered to help reduce the smuggling of drugs.

The 2019 report was published along with the visiting committee reports for all other prisons. Though many were submitted to the Department of Justice from spring 2020 on, they have only been published now.

In a lengthy 31-page report, the Cork committee said: “One of the big issues affecting Cork prison during 2019 was the amount of prisoners sleeping on the floor at various times during the year and also the availability of drugs within the prison.

Perhaps the purchase of a full-body scan X-ray machine could be investigated to help reduce the amount of drugs etc coming in.” 

The committee praised the modern workshops in the prison but said “Unfortunately, these are closed more often than they are open” mainly due to staff been allocated for escort duty.

It commended the excellent work of the education unit and the work of voluntary and community groups such as Cork Alliance Centre.

The committee recommended a governor be appointed to coordinate services aimed at rehabilitating prisoners.

“Currently it is our view that rehabilitation and reintegration is an add-on, not coordinated, and not an integral part of the prison system,” it said.

In a short two-page report, the [url=

http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Limerick%20Prison%20Visiting%20Committee%20Annual%20Report%202019.pdf/Files/Limerick%20Prison%20Visiting%20Committee%20Annual%20Report%202019.pdf] Limerick Visiting Committee[/url] said that of the average daily population of 215 in the male prison, some 18 inmates were still "slopping out" (no access to proper toilets) and that there was a constant movement of inmates to other prisons to relieve overcrowding.

In a detailed 20-page report, the [url=

http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Mountjoy%20Prison%20Visiting%20Committee%20Annual%20Report%202019.pdf/Files/Mountjoy%20Prison%20Visiting%20Committee%20Annual%20Report%202019.pdf] Mountjoy Prison Visiting Committee[/url] highlighted a “culture of fear” in the prison because of the level of drug abuse and flagged “unpredictable risks and danger, particularly for vulnerable prisoners”.

It said: 

The risks of substance abuse are the most pervasive and persistent problem spoken about on a weekly basis in the prison by staff and prisoners. 

"Physical outbursts, injury to prisoners and on occasion staff, fear and intimidation in prison and involving family members in the community are all a feature of this major challenge for the prison service.” 

It said the proportion of protection prisoners in Mountjoy has also remained constant at about 30-33% of all prisoners, with many opting to be locked in a cell for most of the day for their own safety.

The committee said the forensic mental health team in Mountjoy run by the National Forensic Mental Health Service has had a “significant positive impact” on prisoners needing assessment and treatment.

But it added: “The long waiting times for ongoing therapeutic interventions and severe lack of adequate secure residential beds for the more severely unwell and disturbed prisoners continued to be a major concern for the Visiting Committee.” 

The Visiting Committee for [url=


Dóchas Women’s Prison[/url] said there had been incidents of drugs being smuggled in resulting in other inmates "becoming ill, having seizures and on occasion being hospitalised". 

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