Dáil Éireann - Volume 492 - 09 June, 1998

Written Answers. - Prison Drug Treatment Services.

212. Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the place of detention or incarceration under his remit where those incarcerated can avail of drug treatment services; the number who availed of these services over the past 12 months; the type of service offered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13526/98]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue): Treatment for drug addicted offenders is available in all prison institutions as part of the general medical services available to all inmates. Any offender who is willing to make a real effort to stop abusing drugs and who shows the necessary commitment and motivation will be supported by appropriate medical intervention and therapeutic counselling. It is unfortunately the case that despite the availability of the treatment [210] options many offenders continue to fail to grasp the opportunities provided to address their addiction.

The majority of offenders with drugs problems are located in institutions in the Dublin area and in particular in Mountjoy Prison. During 1997, following medical assessment, approximately 1,650 inmates in Mountjoy Prison received the standard 14 day drug detoxification programme in the prison.

The drug treatment unit has been in operation in Mountjoy Prison's health care unit since July 1996. This programme is operated by the medical personnel in the prison and is aimed at weaning addicts off drugs by means of gradually reducing dosages of substitutes such as methadone. The programme is modelled on similar hospital based units in the community. Over 120 inmates have been admitted to the drug treatment unit since it opened.

There are a number of options open where inmates have completed the detoxification programme in the drug treatment unit. They can continue to serve their sentence in the general prison population; if they are considered suitable they can be granted temporary release to continue treatment with an outside agency or they may transfer to the drug free unit.

The drug free unit is in operation at the training unit, which is adjacent to but separate from the main Mountjoy Prison and has accommodation for 96 prisoners. This facility accommodates prisoners who do not have a background of drug abuse in a totally drug-free and secure environment within the prison system. It also provides a sympathetic, yet closely monitored setting in which those prisoners who are in the process of coming to terms with their addiction and who have achieved stable drug-free status can serve out their sentences in an environment free from the temptations and risks associated with illicit drugs. The regime in the drug free unit also provides inmates with valuable opportunities in the form of a wide range of work and training related activities to assist in the rehabilitation process. In order to address a perceived shortfall in the counselling services available to recovering addicts the Eastern Health Board has recently undertaken to seek to appoint a suitable person from their existing complement of addiction counsellors to be based in the training unit. It is hoped that this appointment will be made during the summer.

Prisoners in both the Mountjoy treatment facility and the drug free unit are closely monitored by regular and random urine testing. This testing is done on a voluntary basis.

The medical treatment of drug addicts, in common with the provision of all medical services in the prison system, is co-ordinated by the Director of Prison Medical Services. The director liaises regularly with the health boards to ensure a level [211] of primary health care for prisoners which is equivalent to that available in the community. Developments in medical services for drug addicts in the community are closely monitored with a view to their application in prisons where practicable.