€4.3m 'not enough' for jail addicts
The Irish Prison Service (IPS) is spending millions of euro on drug addiction counselling services for inmates across the prison system - but the spend is not enough to deal with the demand.
The service has recently signed a new deal with Merchants Quay Ireland to provide an addiction counselling service for prisoners and it is to pay the service €4.3m over four years.
The IPS has confirmed that arising from the demand for the services, there were 85 prisoners awaiting treatment and a further 251 prisoners waiting to be assessed by a counsellor at the end of last year.
According to a spokesman for the IPS: "In 2013, Merchants Quay Ireland delivered approximately 1,750 prisoner contacts per month, and the service was being delivered by 21 counsellors at that time. In total, there were 3,065 referrals to the service during 2013.
"The contract duration is for three years with an option to extend the term for a period or periods of up to 12 months. The overall cost of the contract is €4.28m (exclusive of VAT)."
A series of prison visiting committee annual reports for 2013 recently outlined the challenge faced by the Merchants Quay Ireland counsellors.
There are 3,809 prisoners in custody in the State. At the end of April, there were 488 patients receiving methadone treatment in 10 prison clinics nationwide, according to HSE figures.
The Visiting Annual Committee Report 2013 for Wheatfield Prison states that: "Drugs in Irish prisons are an ongoing concern and Wheatfield Prison is no exception."