Written Answers. - Prisons Drug Problem.

37.

asked the Minister for Justice if he will make a statement on the drug problem in prisons.

I propose to deal with three matters — first, allegations of illicit abuse of drugs in prisons, second, the steps taken to prevent such abuse and, third, facilities provided generally within prisons for offenders who suffer from drug addiction.

The prison authorities are aware that incidents of drug abuse take place within the prisons from time to time and although there is no evidence to suggest that such abuse is widespread, it is obviously a matter for concern in respect of which all appropriate and acceptable preventative measures must be taken.

There are obvious difficulties in dealing with this matter. On the one hand, the fact that drug quantities can be very small and easy to conceal suggests a need for strict surveillance and searching procedures. At the same time there is the need to preserve the right balance between the measures necessary to preserve the smuggling of drugs into prisons and the trafficking in drugs within prisons and the preservation of an acceptable humane regime. Constant vigilance on the part of prison staff must be relied upon as one of the most effective methods of deterrence. Among the measures which have been taken are the installation of a number of closed circuit television cameras and, in addition, visits to prisoners who are strongly suspected of having or using drugs are restricted to areas where the passing of drugs can be prevented. Facilities provided for those addicted to drugs have been outlined by me on a number of occasions — they include medical, psychological, psychiatric, welfare, chaplaincy and educational services as well as visits and counselling by appropriate community-based groups. The commitment and co-operation of the individual concerned, whether inside or outside prison, is of course of fundamental importance to the success of any programme designed to help in overcoming any drug problem.