Drug addiction 'abounds' in prisons says prison watchdog

Drug addiction 'abounds' in prisons says prison watchdog

Little is in place to help inmates seeking treatment to stay drug-free, the prison watchdog has said.

Drug addiction “abounds” in prisons, but little is in place to help inmates seeking treatment to stay drug-free, the prison watchdog has said.

The Inspector of Prisons detailed concerns from the governors of two prisons – Midlands and Wheatfield – regarding the use of drones to try and smuggle drugs into their jails.

In one case in Limerick Prison, an inmate escaped after being brought to hospital only to return to the jail the following day and attempted to smuggle contraband in.

Attempted suicide

In her 2019 annual report, Patricia Gilheaney also gives details of violence within prisons and the amount of inmates seeking protection as well as cases of self-harm and attempted suicide among prisoners.

On the issue of drugs, she said: “In 2019, addiction issues abounded in prison settings and the main intervention available was medically assisted detoxification.

“Following detoxification, limited support was available to support prisoners in their addiction journey and to remain intoxicant free.” 

The inspector conducted one-day oversight visits in each prison during November and December 2019.

The report, delayed because of the Covid pandemic, said 57 prisoners out of 254 inmates in the male and female Limerick prison complex were on detoxification medicine in 2019 and that a further 35 accessed methadone maintenance, but said Limerick did not offer drug rehabilitation.

It said 97 prisoners during 2019 were on restricted regime, on their own request for their own safety, and a further 57 inmates were on restricted regime for the good order of the prison.

There was one death in custody and 11 incidents of attempted suicide, including deliberate self harm and overdoses. There were seven reported incidents of staff using force on prisoners, 29 incidents of violence against staff and 34 cases of prisoner against prisoner violence.

Drug rehabilitation

In Cork Prison, 578 prisoners accessed detoxification medicine, while 176 inmates accessed methadone maintenance. It said drug rehabilitation was offered, with 176 receiving counselling from Merchants Quay.

The report said there were two threats to staff safety and 16 incidents of staff use of force on inmates. There were nine cases of violence against staff and 52 incidents of prisoner against prisoner violence.

In the Midlands Prison, the governor advised of a number of drone sightings and/or drone stops of contraband into the prison in 2019.

There were four deaths in custody in 2019, two attempted suicides, seven cases of self-harm and 25 serious assaults.

Staff using force

There were 11 cases of staff using force in prisoner relocations, 22 incidents of violence against staff and 107 cases of prisoner-on-prisoner violence.

In Dóchas Women’s Prison there was one incident of serious self-harm that resulted in death 11 days later.

In Mountjoy, 232 men were placed on restricted regime in 2019. Over 30 men accessed drug rehabilitation, while 193 were on methadone maintenance. There were 10 incidents of self-harm reported.

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