Tuesday 25 July 2017

Prison staff fears over passive inhalation of drugs

'Our members work in an environment where others use drugs on an ongoing basis and there is concern the passive effects can show up as a positive in a drug driving test,' said deputy general secretary Jim Mitchell (stock photo)
'Our members work in an environment where others use drugs on an ongoing basis and there is concern the passive effects can show up as a positive in a drug driving test,' said deputy general secretary Jim Mitchell (stock photo)
Conor Feehan

Conor Feehan

Prison officers have raised concerns that they could fail new roadside drug drive tests by passively inhaling drugs being smoked by inmates in jails.

The issue has been discussed at the Prison Officers' Association's (POA) annual conference in Galway.

"Our members work in an environment where others use drugs on an ongoing basis and there is concern the passive effects can show up as a positive in a drug driving test," said deputy general secretary Jim Mitchell.

"We passed a motion on this issue at our conference to the effect that we want immediate discussions with the Irish Prison Service (IPS) on this matter.

"Drug use is part and parcel of prison life for some prisoners, despite our best efforts to deny access at entry points through searches and the use of electronic systems.

"So in responding to the possibility of flawed drug driving tests on our members, we must face the reality of drug use in our prisons and take some action.

"The IPS has a responsibility in this and we expect it will enter meaningful discussions in the coming weeks.

"We are concerned that drugs (are) being accessed by prisoners, including new 'novel psychoactive substances'."

A spokesman for the Prison Service said it meets regularly with members of the POA and would listen to the concerns of its members.

"We would trust that the drug testing systems being used by gardaí would be robust enough to be used in general operation," he said.

Meanwhile, senior prison officers have had security equipment installed in their homes because of death threats from prisoners, president of the POA Stephen Delaney has said.

"I am aware of senior officers having equipment installed in their house arising from threats made by an offender, actual death threats," he said.

Irish Independent

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