The number of mobile phones seized in Irish prisons has more than doubled in five years.
New figures show 1,387 phones were seized last year.
The figure is up 249 on 2020 and is over twice as many as the 648 seized in 2016.
Former prison officer and criminologist John Cuffe said mobile phones are extremely damaging in the prison system.
“Apart from drugs, they are probably one of the most valuable currencies in a prison,” he said. “They give access to the outside world.”
“You can run a business on a mobile phone inside. You can intimidate, you can send out orders, you can get information in. So, they are a huge currency in the prison system and they are a nightmare in the prison system. They can actually cause fierce damage inside and outside of jail.”
Last year, 557 phones were seized in Wheatfield Prison in Dublin alone.
Mr Cuffe said the phones are smuggled into prisons in a range of different ways – and many are not spotted.
“You can rest assured, it’s like the drug problem in the country,” he said. “If you catch a ship with €50m worth you can rest assured about ten times that amount is coming into the country anyway.
“You can say the same for phones. You are as good as the staff that search them. You are as good as the manpower you have and the equipment you have to search with.”
Drug seizures also soared in Irish jails last year, rising from 1,148 in 2020 to 1,588 in 2021.
The Irish Prison Service says the suspension of visits for long periods due to COVID, led to a shift in the methods used for trafficking contraband into prisons.
It said there has been an increase in 'throw-overs' - involving people outside throwing mobile phones and drugs into exercise yards.