Dáil Éireann - Volume 458 - 21 November, 1995
Written Answers. - Prison Drug Programmes.
Mr. Sargent Mr. Sargent
151. Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Justice the reason addicts who are sentenced while on methadone maintenance programmes are prevented from continuing with the methadone programmes once in prison; if her attention has been drawn to the fact that this may mean forcing recovering addicts to return to heroin; the reason normal programmes for dealing with drug addiction are not in place within prisons; if she is concerned by the HIV and hepatitis C problem that is being created; and the plans, if any, she has to introduce needle exchanges within the prisons to minimise the health risk being caused. [17283/95]
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen) Nora Owen
Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen): Arrangements, which will enable individuals who were availing of a recognised methadone maintenance programme immediately prior to committal to prison to continue to receive such programmes following committal, are at an advanced stage of preparation. I want to emphasise, however, that the prescription of methadone is in every case a matter for a medical practitioner and that strict medical and other criteria must govern any such arrangements in a prison setting.
 At present drug addicted prisoners may, following committal, avail of limited detoxification programmes where appropriate in individual cases. In addition there is in place at present a comprehensive range of services for prisoners with drug addiction problems. These include addiction counselling courses, a comprehensive education programme which highlights in particular the risk of contracting communicable diseases, including HIV and hepatitis C from drug abuse, and a full range of medical, psychiatric, and psychological services. In addition there are arrangements in place with several community based drug treatment agencies for the assessment of drug addicted prisoners and, in suitable cases, the continuation of treatment with such agencies in the community following release.
Further proposals which are now at an advanced stage of preparation will provide for: the creation of a detoxification facility in the medical care unit in Mountjoy Prison; and the establishment of a secure drug free unit.
These facilities will be put in place as soon as practicable and will enable the prison authorities to accommodate those prisoners who do not have a background of drug abuse or who have decided to opt out of the drugs culture in a totally drug free environment within the prison. On the other hand those who are suffering from acute drug addiction problems and who show the necessary commitment, will be afforded an opportunity to avail of a humane detoxification programme on a par with the best available in the community. The question of providing a needle exchange programme to prisoners was considered in detail by the advisory committee on communicable diseases in prisons which reported in 1993. The committee — the majority of whose recommendations have now been implemented — concluded that “such an approach would be inappropriate in the context of ... safety and security” and I concur with that view.
Dáil Éireann 458 Written Answers. Prison Drug Programmes.