herald

Friday 6 December 2019

661 weapons found in prisons last year - despite crackdown

Mountjoy Prison in the capital
Mountjoy Prison in the capital

The amount of drugs, weapons and other contraband detected in prisons continued to rise last year despite a range of enhanced measures implemented by authorities to stop smuggling.

A total of 661 makeshift daggers and other deadly weapons were seized by prison officers in Irish jails last year - an increase of almost 20pc compared to 2017.

There were also 1,126 drug seizures during 2018 - an average of three every day - representing an increase of 11pc on the previous year.

The number of phones confiscated from inmates similarly climbed by 9pc to 953 during the same period.

The Irish Prison Service (IPS) spent almost €313,000 on netting and other anti-smuggling systems between 2015 and 2017, as well as introducing a confidential phone line for reporting suspected trafficking of prohibited items.

However, records released by the IPS under the Freedom of Information Act show that seizures of contraband have continued to increase despite the extra efforts.

"Preventing the access of contraband into prisons remains a high priority for the IPS," said a spokesperson.

Drug-detection dogs have also been introduced in the prison system, along with the installation of airport-style security measures such as scanners and X-ray machines, according to the spokesperson.

Mountjoy Prison recorded the most seizures of weapons (172, more than a quarter of the total) and mobile phones (296).

Wheatfield Prison recorded 135 and 220, respectively.

The most commonly seized weapons are makeshift daggers, which are typically fashioned from blades or sharpened objects attached to small handles made from toothbrushes or pens.

Stashes

Wheatfield Prison also accounted for more than 35pc of drug seizures last year, with 395 instances.

In Cork Prison, 29 phones were seized last year, along with 55 quantities of drugs and 37 weapons. Limerick Prison recorded the seizure of 56 phones, 94 drug stashes, and 91 weapons.

Officers at the Midlands Prison in Portlaoise found 127 phones, 97 quantities of drugs, and 92 weapons in 2018.

Just three phones and nine drug discoveries were recorded at the Dochas Centre for women.

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