Three seizures per day in Irish prisons
Drug problem in jails worsens as authorities fail to stop smuggling
DRUG ABUSE within Irish prisons remains at epidemic proportions, with new figures revealing three seizures occur each day in jails nationwide.
Major concern continues to focus on the ageing Mountjoy facility in Dublin which accounted for almost 50pc of all inmate drug seizures last year.
Prison Service figures revealed that, from January to mid-December 2009, more than 1,100 drug seizures were recorded in 11 Irish jails.
A staggering 505 seizures involved male inmates at Mountjoy with one government TD, Michael McGrath, warning that alarm bells should now be ringing over how such a significant quantity of drugs gets into Irish jails in the first place.
Deputy McGrath said the seizures reflected the great work being done by the Prison Service and prison officers -- but he warned that making prisons secure from such smuggling is now a major judicial issue.
The numbers of drug seizures in Irish jails in 2009 was staggering and included Castlerea (62); Cloverhill (83); Cork (31); Dochas (10); Limerick (69); Midlands (88); Mountjoy men's prison (505); Portlaoise Prison (19); St Patrick's (85); Training Unit (3); Wheatfield (151); no figures were available for Arbour Hill, Loughlan House or the low-security facility Shelton Abbey.
"Based on these figures, it is clear that drug use in Irish prisons continues to be a very serious problem," Deputy McGrath warned.
"Much more work now needs to be done to prevent drugs from entering the prisons in the first place. Clearly, prisoners are still finding new ways of getting drugs into prisons," he added.
"We cannot allow our prisons to be a haven for drug use. We are trying to fight the scourge of illegal drugs in our communities but what hope have we if we are not able to keep drugs out of prisons."
Ironically, the two new super-prisons specifically designed to prevent contraband smuggling by inmates -- Thornton Hall in Dublin and Kilworth in Cork -- have been mothballed due to the public finances crisis.
Ageing and overcrowded facilities, such as Mountjoy and Cork, will now have to remain operational for years to come.
Similarly, plans to turn Limerick Prison into a remand facility have had to be shelved.
Measures to tackle smuggling, including additional visitor screening and contraband nets to prevent items being thrown over prison yards, have proved useful but have failed to totally eliminate the flow of drugs and contraband items into Irish jails.
Drug campaigners have pointed out that the number of drug seizures recorded at Portlaoise -- Ireland's most high profile maximum security facility -- underlines the sheer scale of the problem and the difficulty in combating it.