The Inspector of Prisons was refused entry to a facility by an officer who "appeared to be intoxicated", according to a new report.
The officer had a "strong smell of alcohol and difficulty in reading the inspector’s photo identification card" during the visit to an unnamed prison.
Management were informed and a report was subsequently sent to them by the Inspector.
The Annual Report for 2018 by the Office of the Inspector of Prisons said the incident was disappointing but noted the general "professionalism and
dedication of staff in challenging and sometimes dangerous situations".
The Inspector of Prisons Patricia Gilheaney said that 2018 had "presented many challenges" but that "the next few years should witness a sea change
in the development" of the Office.
The report outlines the visits to prisons which took place throughout the year and the areas which emerged as concerning for the Inspector.
Among these problem areas were safety, prisoner health, rehabilitation, equal treatment of women prisoners and chaplaincy.
Gangs and contraband
The report said that the formation of factions within prisons in line with "an exponential growth in the number of crime related gangs" nationwide brought "significant challenges".
It said that "membership or allegiance to these criminal gangs fluctuate on a continuous basis with some persons breaking links and others becoming affiliated" and that colour coding had been effective in maintaining a safe environment.
The use of solitary confinement "is of particular concern" and should only "be used only in exceptional circumstances".
The report said that figures for 2019 are likely to show a continuance of over-crowding due to several factors including more offenders being brought before the courts and an increase in the number of prisoners serving long sentences.
Additionally, contraband remains a serious issue.
During a visit to one of the prisons, the Inspector was shown illegal drugs which had been found that day.
The report says that "the ‘drugs trade’ within prison reflects the ‘drugs trade’ outside'.
As well as this, the use of drones to deliver contraband poses a challenge to the prison service, the report said.