Fianna Fáil Spokesperson for National Drugs Strategy and Justice Committee member, Jack Chambers TD has said the changing pattern of drug use in Irish Prisons’ requires enhanced efforts to provide drug treatment services to inmates.

Figures recently released by the Department of Justice indicate that in the first nine months of this year, there were almost 800 seizures of drugs in prisons around the country. An 8% increase on the previous year.

Dublin’s Mountjoy Prison has the highest number of illegal drug finds with 310 seizures already this year.

Commenting on the matter, Deputy Chambers said, “Based on these figures, it is clear that drug use in Irish prisons continues to be a very serious problem.

“The State’s prison population currently stands at 3,715 inmates, 70% of those suffer from drug and/or alcohol addiction issues.

“My main concern regarding these seizures is that the Irish Prison Service currently doesn’t have any laboratory capacity to test the drugs that are found. They therefore are unable to report on changing patterns or trends in prison drug use.

“Addiction services cannot be fit-for-purpose if there is no information regarding specific narcotics. This is is a systemic problem across the prison service and it needs to be approached with new vigour.

“Clearly, prisoners and those associated with them are continuing to identify clever ways of getting drugs into prisons. We cannot allow our prisons to be a haven for illegal drug use.

“The supply line of drugs into Irish prisons simply must be identified and cut off. The range of security measures already in place to prevent the smuggling of drugs into our prisons must be reviewed”, according to Deputy Chambers.

“An independent assessment of prison addiction services published in December 2016 identified a need for enhanced services and treatment options for prisoners with addiction and mental health issues, particularly in light of the rise of new psychoactive substances.

“The four main principles of legal detention are retribution, incapacitation, deterrence and rehabilitation; based upon those it is pertinent on the Irish Prison Service to provide services to end unlawful drug use.

“If our prisons’ fail in there capacity to support inmates to become law abiding citizens while incarcerated, what hope have they of rehabilitation when released?

“I don’t suggest that staff including prison officers who are already working in an incredibly challenging and pressurised environment, are responsible for this scourge in drug use or addiction.

He concluded, “We have to put resources into not just leaving these prisoners to leave prison continuing in addiction and virtually inevitably reoffend.”