NewsCrime Desk

X-ray snaps show shocking lengths inmates go to to smuggle contraband into Irish jails

Crime DeskBy Mick McCaffrey
The x-ray of an inmate who tried to smuggle a phone into Mountjoy
The x-ray of an inmate who tried to smuggle a phone into Mountjoy
Some of the mobile phone devices which were uncovered in Mountjoy
Some of the mobile phone devices which were uncovered in Mountjoy

IT is the X-ray photograph that shows the shocking lengths prisoners are willing to go to get contraband phones into the jail.

The image, which was taken by medical staff following an investigation by Mountjoy Prison staff, shows a full-size Blackberry phone hidden up an inmate’s back passage.

The Sunday World was granted exclusive access to see the inner workings of the secretive unit, who have been cleaning up the Joy from contraband.

Known as the Operational Support Unit (OSG), they have conducted a successful war to stamp out drug and mobile phone smuggling at the prison over the last six years. 

They explained how inmates have gone to any length to hide contraband and detergent bottles, fake rocks and false bed legs have all been used to store drugs and phones.

One officer, going only by the name ‘Frank’ to protect his identity, told us: “In one case a chessboard had been modified in here. It looked and felt totally normal, apart from a tiny bit of blu-tack holding the green felt together underneath it. 

“Cardboard had even been placed so that it would not feel hollow when examined. When we removed the felt, we saw a section had been carved out to hold a mobile phone.”

Last year, most of the 173 weapons seized at the jail were manufactured within the prison from crude material. 

Daggers made of wood taken from broken food trays, mirrors or perspex are often found by OSG staff. 

Frank explained how ordinary materials can be turned into deadly weapons, known as ‘shivs’.

“We often see improvised weapons made within Mountjoy. One of the most dangerous is a toothbrush that has had two razor blades attached. It leaves permanent scarring in two places if used across the face.”

In an exclusive interview with the Sunday World, Mountjoy Prison governor Ned Whelan revealed how he instigated a zero-tolerance policy when he was appointed to succeed John Lonergan.

Nearly four years on, the prison is now a different place and is unrecognisable from the old Joy.

Whelan smashed the power of the gangs by closing the E1 landing and carrying out an inch-by-inch search of the jail – which led to dozens of mobiles, drugs, weapons, nine plasma TVs and even two budgies being seized.

He said: “Prisoners used to be allowed stay in bed all day or wander around.  Now they have to go to education and participate in all the programmes we have.”

He also defended the decision to allow a new prison committee to be elected, that consists of several notorious murderers – which includes Barry Doyle, the man who executed innocent Limerick rugby player Shane Geoghegan.

“A lot of inmates are in for serious offences and many are serving life. In order for this programme to work, prisoners have to be free to elect their peers.”

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