The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr Brian Lenihan T.D., today announced that he had obtained Government approval for significant additional staffing resources (max of 178 posts) to introduce a range of new security measures in our prisons. These measures will include:
- the establishment of a drug detection dog service within the Irish Prison Service involving approximately 30 staff to provide sniffer dogs at all our prisons;
- the establishment of an Operational Support Group dedicated to and developing expertise in searching and gathering intelligence on illicit material being hidden inside our prisons; they will be available in addition to the normal prison staff and can target specific problem areas;
- the introduction of security screening (X-ray/metal detectors) for all persons (prisoners, visitors and staff) entering our prisons;
- two special segregation units for suspected gang leaders in Cloverhill Prison.
The success of the Gardaí in combating criminal gangs has resulted in the imprisonment of many gang leaders and this has led to increased inter gang violence within the prison system. Despite active security measures already taken by the Irish Prison Service, there are persistent and organised attempts by such gangs to smuggle drugs, mobile phones and other illicit materials into our prisons. These items are used to manipulate and intimidate other prisoners into their groupings within prison and allow gang leaders to continue having an influence on criminal activities outside prison.
Some measures have already been taken to address these problems. Security netting has been installed, non contact visits are being made the norm in the new Prison Rules, intensive searches have been carried out in Portlaoise and other prisons, possession of a mobile phone in prison has been made a serious offence and technology to block mobile calls from within a prison is being installed on a pilot basis in the Midlands prison. While there have been some successes it is clear that once one avenue is blocked off they will resort to other methods.
The problem is serious and requires a dedicated and sustained response to ensure that it will be extremely difficult for any person to get illicit goods whether drugs, weapons, alcohol or mobile phones into a prison or to keep them hidden once inside. In addition two special units are being introduced to ensure that any gang leaders identified can be segregated from the main prison population so that they are not in a position to intimidate, manipulate or organise other prisoners.
The death of Mr. Derek Glennon in Mountjoy prison on Monday emphasises how dangerous an environment prisons can be and the need for extra vigilance and stringent security measures. The Minister wishes to take this opportunity to express his condolences to the family of Mr. Glennon.
26 June 2007