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33pc jump in drug seizures in our prisons

A crackdown on drugs in Irish prisons has increased the number of drug seizures by one-third in the first six months of this year.

Figures just released show that while just under 1,300 seizures were made during the whole of last year, there have been 822 between January and June of this year.

The amount of drugs being taken from prisoners has increased hugely since May 2008, when new security measures were introduced.

There were just 351 seizures between May and December that year -- a rate which increased by a third last year.

Most of the drugs this year were found in Mountjoy Prison in Dublin, where 409 seizures were made between January and June 2010 compared to 547 for the whole of 2009.

Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said new security screening at prison entrances and the range of measures introduced "have had considerable success in preventing the flow of and assisting in the capture of contraband such as illicit drugs".

The measures include tighter control and monitoring of prisoner visits in all closed prisons with visitors needing pre-approval by the governor, greater vigilance in examining mail, increased random cell searches and stricter searching of prisoners coming back from court or temporary release.



Screening

A dog drug-detection service, cameras and probe systems to search hollow chair or bed legs and under floorboards, along with nets over exercise yards and security screening for staff, have also helped.

During the first six months of this year there were 87 illegal drug seizures at Limerick prison, 56 at St Patrick's Institution, 52 at Wheatfield prison and 46 at the Midlands prison.

There were 43 at Castlerea, 37 at Cloverhill, 26 at Cork prison and 15 at Loughan House. Portlaoise and the Dublin training unit had 14 seizures each, and there were 13 at Shelton Abbey and just 10 at the women's Dochas Centre.

The minister said as prisons do not have the facilities to test for the type or quality of substance, he could not give a breakdown.

"Gardai are contacted once suspected drug seizures are made and issues of investigation and prosecution fall within their remit", he added.

The minister said there was also continued investment in services within prisons to reduce demand for illicit drugs along with treatment and rehabilitative services.

csheehy@herald.ie


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