Amount of drugs coming into Irish prisons 'extremely concerning', chaplains warn

The amount of drugs coming into jails is 'extremely concerning', according to some prison chaplai...
Eoghan Murphy
Eoghan Murphy

06.00 9 Dec 2020

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Amount of drugs coming into Ir...

Amount of drugs coming into Irish prisons 'extremely concerning', chaplains warn

Eoghan Murphy
Eoghan Murphy

06.00 9 Dec 2020

Share this article

The amount of drugs coming into jails is 'extremely concerning', according to some prison chaplains.

One report says it's a 'tragedy' that some inmates arriving into jail clean can leave as addicts.

The 2019 annual reports from prison chaplains have been released under Freedom of Information legislation.


A recent seizure saw the discovery of a 'click and collect service' for drugs, alcohol and phones in Mountjoy Prison, and these chaplain reports also highlight major concerns around drug availability.

According to Mountjoy Prison's chaplaincy service, it's almost impossible to avoid the temptation of drugs within the prison, and the availability of various substances within the jail is 'extremely concerning'.

It says a prisoner's families and friends can be put under extreme pressure to carry drugs in for others.

Midlands Prison in Portlaoise is the largest jail in the country.

According to its latest chaplains' annual report, the availability of drugs in the landing of the jail is also a concern.

In Wheatfield Prison in Dublin, the chaplains' 2019 annual report says it's a tragedy that prisoners arriving into jail clean can leave addicted to drugs.

It says some prisoners refuse to go into prison yards for fresh air because of the risk from fellow prisoners receiving deliveries of drugs from outside the jail.

Mental illness

Meanwhile, it's a 'serious concern' that people with mental illnesses are continuing to be jailed on a regular basis.

In its 2019 annual report, the chaplaincy service for Cloverhill Prison in Dublin says a prison environment is 'totally unsuitable' for men suffering from a major mental illness.

However, it says mental illness is a prominent factor in the jail.

The chaplains say it takes weeks or months to divert a prisoner to his local hospital or the Central Mental Hospital.

They say this is a serious and complex problem for Irish society, which must be addressed urgently.

The Cloverhill chaplains also raise concerns about overcrowding in the jail, saying some prisoners have been forced to sleep on mattresses on the floor.


One prisoner has spent 42 years in jail without any respite, such as a day out or a visit, according to a chaplain's report from Arbour Hill Prison in Dublin.

The chaplains say finding accommodation for sex offenders when they're released from jail is very difficult.

It says some hostels are now refusing them when they would have been welcome in the past.

Prison Service response

The Irish Prison Service says it's 'no surprise' people continue to seek drugs in prison, given that around 70% of those committed to custody have addiction issues.

In a statement, the service says they're focused on improving security measures, and developing a new drugs strategy aimed at preventing drugs getting into prison and reducing demand.

The statement notes: "Drug addiction counsellors are available in all prisons and drug treatment programmes are available to help prisoner detoxify.

"It has been noticeable during the COVID-19 pandemic that the availability of illegal drugs has reduced in prisons due to the reduced movement of people from outside and the Irish Prison Service has been working to encourage those who take drugs to avail of the services available in the prison to become drug free."

The Irish Prison Service also says it works closely with the National Forensic Mental Health Service to provide mental health support and treatment to people in custody.

However, it accepts there is an urgent need to enhance and improve the level of service provided.

Meanwhile, the service says transition of offenders from custody to the community remains an 'integral part' of its sentence management planning.

It says they work closely with housing agency to ensure people leaving prison have access to accommodation wherever possible.

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