Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Questions (177, 178)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

178 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of times and the details of contraband items which have been thrown over the walls of or smuggled into each of the prisons in the State during the past two years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4295/12]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice and Equality)

One of the major challenges in prisons today lies in preventing access to contraband items, primarily mobile phones and drugs, which for obvious reasons are viewed as highly valuable commodities among elements of the prison population. Efforts are continually made to prevent the flow of contraband into our prisons by, for example, the installation of nets over exercise yards, vigilant observation of prisoners by staff, enhanced CCTV monitoring, the stricter control of visits, and the use of prisoner and random cell searches on a daily basis. Random searches of cells and their occupants and searching of correspondence and other items have all intercepted significant quantities of contraband in recent years. Nevertheless, the Irish Prison Service recognises that constant improvements are required in this area.

The table below illustrates the total number of items seized in each prison over this timeframe. It is important to note that a large percentage of these seizures are not directly from prisoners but are instead retrieved at entry point or before they get to the prisoner population. The type of articles seized vary considerably and include mobile phones, drugs, weapons (including improvised weapons such as pieces of perspex or shivs), phone chargers, alcohol, SIM cards, cash etc. The volume of items involved and the regularity in which seizures take place highlight the continuous attempts being made by criminal elements to access prohibited articles.

Prison

Total number of items seized

Arbour Hill

9

Castlerea Prison

908

Cloverhill Prison

447

Cork Prison

514

Dochas Centre

261

Limerick Prison

1,884

Loughan House

585

Midlands Prison

1,187

Mountjoy Prison

4,784

Portlaoise Prison

385

St. Patrick’s Institution

1,625

Shelton Abbey

388

Training Unit

598

Wheatfield Prison

1,501

Total

15,076

The above total includes 2,787 weapons and 3,156 drug seizures.

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

179 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of weapons which have been confiscated from prisoners in each of the prisons throughout the State during the past three years. [4296/12]

View answer

The information requested by the Deputy is outlined in the table:

Prison

2009

2010

2011

Arbour Hill

0

0

1

Castlerea Prison

160

171

151

Cloverhill Prison

151

73

75

Cork Prison

66

56

96

Dochas Centre

3

16

14

Limerick Prison

78

193

122

Loughan House

2

31

4

Midlands Prison

59

83

83

Mountjoy Prison

573

460

247

Portlaoise Prison

21

17

16

St. Patrick’s Institution

183

278

256

Shelton Abbey

0

1

0

Training Unit

5

9

8

Wheatfield Prison

172

111

215

Total

1,473

1,499

1,288

The mission of the Irish Prison Service is to provide safe, secure and humane custody for those placed into custody. The reduction between 2010 and 2011 is a direct consequence of the introduction of enhanced security measures which include: tighter control and monitoring of prison visits; airport style security screening of all staff and visitors coming into the prison; x-ray scanners to scan all coats and bags/briefcases; increased random searches of prisoner accommodation and it's occupants; and stricter searching of those committed to custody and of those returning to the prison after temporary release, court and after visits.

No level of inter-prisoner violence is acceptable and every effort is made by prison staff and management to limit the scope of acts of violence. While the prison regime is designed to limit the scope of acts of violence, it is not possible to completely eliminate the possibility of such acts in prisons holding a high proportion of violent offenders without introducing a regime that would be unacceptable. There is also a trend towards more homemade weapons being used by prisoners, for example, weapons made out of perspex, sharpened toothbrushes, a pool ball in a sock, brush handles or water jugs, since these measures were implemented.