'Huge risk' of drug overdoses warns Irish Prison Service with visits set to resume to jails in Portlaoise and elsewhere

Service pleads with family members to help save lives

Conor Ganly

Reporter:

Conor Ganly

Email:

news@leinsterexpress.ie

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Midlands Prison Portlaoise.

The Irish Prison Service has pleaded with visitors not to put the lives of inmates at risk due to overdose by smuggling in drugs into jails in Portlaoise and elsewhere when visits resume.

The Irish Prison Service (IPS) has published a detailed guided for families and others preparing to pay inmates a visit from July 20. Visits were stopped in March under the lockdown.

It has a section called Overdose Warning. It says some prisoners may be using less since the lockdown.

"Drug overdose is now the main threat facing your loved ones in prison. We need your help to keep them safe. During the past few weeks, your loved one may have stopped using or reduced their drug use. As a result, they will have lower tolerance levels. There is a huge risk of them overdosing if they start using again," it says.

The guide outlines ways to "help save their life". These are:

  • The best thing to consider is saying no!
  • Help him/her by saying no. Make an excuse, do what you have to do before it’s too late.
  • Encourage them to seek help.
  • There is support available in all prisons for people struggling with addiction.
  • Encourage them to avail of this support. 
  • Don’t risk being arrested or imprisoned yourself.
  • There are searches and sniffer dogs at all prison entrances.
  • Think of your family and how this may impact them if you are caught.

"We realise this is a difficult time for you and your family. We know that sometimes you may feel under pressure to bring drugs into prison. The risk is too great. It can be fatal. Do the right thing for them, for you and for your family," says the guide.

The service says there be full security screening.

"Airport-style walk-through detectors and X-ray scanners are installed in each closed prison. The Canine Unit may be there also with their sniffer or drug dogs.

"The Irish Prison Service has enhanced the fight against drug-trafficking by the introduction of airport-style swabbing for drug residues. Drug-swabbing machines will be present and all visitors will be tested before they may enter the visiting room," it says.

The IPS says visitors will not be allowed to enter prisons if you are carrying: mobile phones and/or chargers, any item which could be used as a weapon, particularly sharp items, Proscribed or prescription drugs.

The IPS sais the Operational Support Group (OSG) has a confidential helpline set up if you have any concerns or feeling under
pressure to smuggle drugs. The number is 1800 855 717 and is open from 8am-8pm.