25 Sept 2022

Prison seizures of phones, drugs and weapons surges as 'traditional' smuggling returns at jails in Portlaoise and elsewhere

Anti-drone technology a factor

Drone and drugs seized near Portlaoise Prison

A drone seized near Portlaoise Prison in 2021 carrying drugs into the Laois jail complex

Contraband drug and phone seizures in drugs have doubled at jails in Laois and other parts of Ireland with tackling of drone smuggling linked by the Irish Prison Service to the change.

However, prison authorities say the Covid-19 impact has seen a return to more 'traditional' ways of getting drugs and phones into jails which has also meant more detection were made.

In its newly published 2021 annual report, the Irish Prison Service outlines the impact.

"The roll out of the Anti-Drone Technology was extended to six prisons in total in 2021. The Irish Prison Service saw significant seizures of contraband in prisons across the estate in 2021 with the number of seizures of illegal drugs and mobile phones being double the rate from 2016," says the report.

A man in his 20s was arrested in early 2021 near Portlaoise Prison following the seizure of a drone, along with a package containing mobile phones, chargers, quantities of crack cocaine, powder cocaine and cannabis.

Figures in the report show that nearly 1,400 phones were found while drug seizures exceeded 1,500. Almost 300 weapons were confiscated by staff in Irish jails.

This contrasts sharply with 2016 when almost 650 phones were discovered while over 700 drug seizures were made. More than 400 weapons were found. MORE BELOW TABLE.

The report adds that the seizure of contraband continued to be a priority for the Irish Prison Service in 2021 when it says more basic smuggling methods were attempted with less sucess.

"Reduced movements into prisons due to reduced committals and visitors to prisons saw a return to more traditional contraband smuggling methods such as throw over walls, and as a result higher levels of detection were recorded," said the report.

Following a number of significant drug seizures in 2020 and 2021, the report says the Irish Prison Service and An Garda Síochána strengthened their cooperation to tackle the organised trafficking of contraband into prisons and a number of actions
have been agreed including enhanced intelligence sharing arrangements.

The Irish Prison Service website says concerted efforts are made on a continuous basis to prevent the flow of drugs into  prisons, by for example, the installation of nets over exercise yards, vigilant observation of prisoners by staff, enhanced CCTV monitoring, the stricter control of visits and the use of targeted and random cell searches on a daily basis, as well as this the introduction of passive and active drug detection dogs and the installation of airport style security including scanners and x-ray machines has helped efforts to tackle the problem.

It says random searches of cells and their occupants have uncovered significant quantities of contraband in recent years.

Nevertheless, the Irish Prison Service admits that it recognises that constant improvements are required. It says additional security measures aimed a further enhancing the security of prisons include a free confidential telephone line. It says prisoner, visitors, staff or members of the public with information on the trafficking of prohibited items into our prisons can pass on that information in the strictest confidence.

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