Prisoner complaints about the use of a sniffer dog on prison visitors who were not trying to smuggle drugs into the Midlands Prison have been rejected by the prison’s independent Visiting Committee.
The committee reported on five issues raised by prisoners in their annual report were: visitors searching, inter-prison transfers, loss of clothing, temporary release escorts on compassionate grounds, health care.
Prisoners complained that the search dog was used on visitors have no contact with drugs or prohibited articles of any kind. But the committee said the dog and OSG unit “have helped enormously in keeping drugs out of the prison”.
Many prisoners complained about being from Dublin Prisons and did not request such a transfer. They felt aggrieved as it disrupted contact with family members and put extra pressure on their families to travel to Portlaoise.
The committees said this was due to the large volume of prisoners in the system and operational constraints due to the refurbishment of Mountjoy and other Prisons. The Committee said the Midlands Prison is “obliged to facilitate these transfers” during refurbishments.
Transfers also led to complaints about misplaced or lost clothes. This has resulted in prisoners being ‘compensated’ if they find that any clothing was accidentally lost.
During the year prisoners have requested compassionate release to visit graves of loved ones, or family day release for communions or confirmations. The granting of temporary release for communions and confirmations is not encouraged but the Prison facilitates the visits to graves and funeral homes wherever practicable and possible.
A small number of prisoner were unhappy with Medical care. They had issues regarding doctors visits, with only one full time Doctor, it was not always possible to get an appointment with him.
The Committee is satisfied that Health care are providing a satisfactory service with the resources presently in place.
“We are happy to hear that there will be a further full time doctor joining the team shortly. This should alleviate the queuing time for,” said the report.
All the prisoners’ issues were raised at Governor Level.
“We wish to say that all Staff and Services working within the prison and those external services working with Prisoners do so in a professional manner with the interest of the prisoners welfare a priority,” said the report.