IPRT - Irish Penal Reform Trust

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New drugs measures in Mountjoy Prison

23rd August 2010

New governor of Mountjoy Prison, Ned Whelan, talks about the zero drugs policy he has introduced into Mountjoy Prison, and the range of measures which have been brought in to enforce it, to Ali Bracken in the Sunday Tribune and to Paul Reynolds, Crime Correspondent, on RTÉ's 'Morning Ireland'.

Measures include the installation of "sophisticated and expensive" netting over the yards of the prison. The introduction of drugs dogs and visitor appointments has also lessened the flow of both drugs and mobile phones into the chaotic jail.

IPRT welcomes Whelan's announcement that Governor Whelan intends to introduce a "drug free" landing on the D wing, where up to 70 inmates will be housed. Currently drug free landings are only available in the Medical Unit for those prisoners who are undergoing drug addiction treatment. The Sunday Tribune article also reports that Mountjoy Prison is the biggest methadone clinic in Ireland, with 260 inmates out of 702 on methadone maintenance programmes last Wed (18 Aug, 2010).

IPRT also welcomes Whelan's statement that portable toilets are to be piloted in the prison in the coming weeks. "Essentially, the bucket used will still remain in the cells but the portable device looks like a toilet, so the idea is that an element of dignity will be restored." [It is a mere 18 years since the CPT first raised the issue of slopping out with the Irish Prison Service.]

IPRT is less convinced that the building of the prison at Thornton Hall will mean the closure of Mountjoy Prison in 2014. With provision in the first phase of building for 400 cells (doubling up to hold 700 prisoners), and prison numbers rising at around 10% per annum - Mountjoy itself currently accommodates up to 750 prisoners - IPRT believes that only serious action in terms of Irish prison policy, and a Government commitment to the use of imprisonment as a sanction of last resort, will reduce overcrowding in the longer term.

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