Irish Penal Reform Trust

Drugs in prison: What do I need to know?

6th July 2015

Security in prison to combat the supply of drugs

A confidential phone line has been launched by the Irish Prison Service to combat the illegal trafficking of drugs and weapons into prisons: 1800 8555 717

On arrival at a prison the individual must give a history of substance abuse. And throughout the duration of the time in custody, offenders must provide a hair, urine or saliva sample for testing for use of alcohol or drug use. Prisoners may also be randomly searched after visits, even if they are not a known drug user.

Visitors are also searched while entering prison. Visitors must go through airport-style x-ray security machines, as well as metal detectors used to screen all personal belongings. Drug dogs will also be walked along the line of visitors. Visitors are not permitted to bring any items into the visiting room. 

For more, see the Irish Prison Service ‘What can visitors bring into a prison?’

Treatment and supports in prison for substance abuse

The IPS have a range of drug rehabilitation programmes to reduce the demand for drugs through education, treatment and rehabilitation services for prisoners who have a substance abuse. The medical and rehabilitation services in prison can consist of methadone treatment, psychological services, and ‘work and training’ options. A Drugs Free Unit has been established in all closed prisons.  

Six organisations are funded to provide services in the prison system: Merchants Quay Ireland (funded under two separate contracts from the IPS and the Probation Service), Coolmine Therapeutic Community, Ana Liffey, Ballymun Youth Project, Fusion CPL and Matt Talbot Community Trust (all funded by the Probation Service to carry out work both in the community and in prison)

The Probation Service currently commissions 18 community based service providers to assist in resettlement for those with addiction issues. See information on these organisations on the Probation Service website.

Respect for rights in the penal system with prison as a last resort.



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