November 25, 2022

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Seizures of mobile phones and drugs in Irish prisons increased by around 20 per cent last year with the annual level of contraband uncovered by prison staff in the country’s jails having more than doubled in the space of five years.

New figures published by the Irish Prison Service show a total of 1,369 mobile phones were found in the country’s 12 prisons last year – up 19 per cent on 2020 levels.

The annual number of mobile phones discovered in the prison network in 2021 is over twice the amount confiscated in 2016 when 648 devices were found.

Wheatfield Prison accounted for approximately 4 out of 10 of all mobile phones seized by prison staff last year with a total of 557 devices detected.

The adjoining prison in Cloverhill had the second highest number of seizures of mobile phones with 328 followed by Mountjoy where 302 handsets were found during 2021.

The IPS figures also reveal a 21 per cent increase in the number of drug seizures in Irish prisons last year

The total number of incidents where prison staff detected illegal drugs increased by almost 300 to 1,518.

Wheatfield again recorded the highest level of illegal drugs found in any of the adult prisons with 453 seizures, although the figures were down slightly on the number in the west Dublin prison in 2020.

Mountjoy had the second largest number of drug seizures with 437 followed by Cloverhill with 313.

In contrast to mobile phones and drugs, the number of weapons seized in prisons was effectively unchanged with 292 items confiscated by prison staff last year.

The annual number of weapons seized in the last two years is almost half the rate of detections over previous years going back to 2015.

Wheatfield accounted for more than a third of all weapons discovered in the country’s jails in 2021 with 102 recorded seizures.

No contraband was found in three prisons last year – Arbour Hill in Dublin and the two open prisons at Loughan House, Co Cavan and Shelton Abbey, Co Wicklow.

The Irish Prison Service said preventing the access of contraband including illegal drugs into prisons would always remain a high priority.

It said the suspension of prison visits as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in changes to the ways that contraband is smuggled into prisons. There has been an increase in the number of attempts to throw packages containing drugs and mobile phones over walls and into exercise yards. There has also been an increase in drugs being found in the post, parcels and prisoner clothing.

The IPS noted that two of the biggest ever seizures of contraband to date were recorded in recent years in Mountjoy Prison.

Last October over €130,009 worth of drugs including cocaine, heroin and a large quantity of tablets including 14,000 LSD tabs were uncovered in a cell on the C3 landing.

The intelligence-led operation also resulted in the discovery of 15 mobile phones.

In 2020, a large quantity of drugs, pills and mobile phones were found hidden in a pallet on a delivery van.

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