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Methadone Services in Cork Prison

8th December 2010

There is an acute awareness that within this State the majority of offenders entering custodial institutions suffer from one form of drug addiction or another. In many instances the very reason for being sentenced to imprisonment is a direct consequence of this dependency, attempting to generate money through illegal means to pay for the next desperately needed hit.

Heroin makes up a significant percentage of this drug addiction, with a large quantity of the state prisoners entering with high addiction levels to such and suffering immediately from withdrawal symptoms upon entry. It is well known amongst the medical profession that to go ‘cold turkey’ can be extremely harmful and dangerous for a patient trying to leave heroin addiction behind them.

However, in spite of this, Cork prison still has a complete lack of methadone treatment for those sent to the prison, a position that Circuit Court Judge Patrick J Moran was highly critical of when sentencing such an addict to the institution last Friday, stating that: "It is regrettable Cork Prison does not have that facility… I say that, bearing in mind all the young people on drugs who come before me, I would have thought the authorities would bring Cork Prison up to the level of other prisons in the state." 

In response, the Irish Prison Service declared that the HSE had received funding to increase the availability of methadone services in the south of the country and an agreement was established that the HSE will provide in-reach services to Cork Prison. This is however contingent on a new healthcare facility being built at the institution. At the moment a tender has been accepted for the project and it is hoped it will be finished by the second quarter of 2011, but there was the significant caveat that: "This is, of course, subject to the availability of resources." 

In an attempt to absolve some of their failure in providing this treatment the IPS stated that   "Prisoners committed to Cork Prison who are receiving methadone substitution treatment are generally transferred to prisons where methadone maintenance is available.” This appears to take into little consideration the affect that being transferred across the country can have on an inmate and their families.

Services such as this are essential to ensure that prisoners have the opportunity to properly rehabilitate during their period of detention and provide them the greatest possibility of reintegrating back into society without this burden to return to crime. 

With all that is known about the need to address addiction within prisons it is point of serious condemnation that a such a large custodial centre is without this fundamental service. It must be hoped that this is adequately redressed as soon as possible, with the facilities being brought up to standard.

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