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Kinahan cartel: Director of Prisons insists they have control of Irish jails, not gangs

When it was put to Ms McCaffrey that gangs like the Kinahans claim they control aspects of Irish prisons, Ms McCaffrey replied: "I don't accept that

Mountjoy Prison, Dublin. Photo: Ernie Leslie

Neil Fetherstonhaugh

The Director of Prisons has insisted that they, and not criminals, control prisons in Ireland, after concerns were raised about the influence certain gangs, such as the Kinahans, have on inmates.

Caron McCaffrey was speaking at the Prison Officers Association annual conference, where prison officers said they were concerned about the potential difficulties that sanctions on the Kinahan organised crime group can cause in the prisons.

Ms McCaffrey had been asked by RTE about how the targeting of the Kinahans on the outside is having a detrimental impact on the prison system because of the large number of Kinahan gang members who are now serving sentences.

When it was put to Ms McCaffrey that gangs like the Kinahans claim they control aspects of Irish prisons, Ms McCaffrey replied: "I don't accept that.

“The prison service has a very good track record in terms of managing criminal gangs within our system and keeping rival gangs apart,” Ms McCaffrey said.

“At any one time there are about 14 different gangs in operation within our prisons, comprising about 200 prisoners.

“We keep those gang factions separate from each other but also separate from the rest of the prison population.

“So we can limit the influence they have on the rest of the prison population and also we can limit their attempts and their ability to continue their criminal activities while they're in the prison.

Ms McCaffrey said there had been record levels of drug seizures and contraband seizures within the prisons this year. FILE PHOTO

“Our staff do huge amounts of work in that regard and I'm confident that they would be in a position to continue to do that excellent work,” she added.

Asked about evidence that drugs and contraband are being brought in in larger quantities, Ms McCaffrey replied: “We've had record levels of drug seizures and contraband seizures within our prisons this year so far.

“We've had over 300 drug seizures over 300 mobile phones found in the first three months.

“We have a particular operational support group whose role it is to thwart the trafficking of contraband into our prisons and we're also working much more proactively recently with the gardai to ensure that we join forces to keep drugs out of our prisons.”

She added: “We have had two very significant finds, one in November 2020 with a value of €170,000 which we caught trying to be smuggled into Mountjoy Prison. And last year, in October, we found €140,000 worth of drugs within our prisons.

“Part of the success is on our side, working with the guards, in terms of targetting trafficking routes into our prison and closing those roots down as we find them.

“In relation to the big seizure in Mountjoy we've radically changed the security arrangements for deliveries coming into our prison. So we're constantly responding to the constant new ways that criminal gangs are coming up with to traffic drugs into our prisons.”

Pictured are pipes containing drugs that were thrown into Wheatfield

Asked how they stop the influence of the gangs in forcing inmates or their families to bring in drugs, Ms McCafferty said: “Obviously families being put under duress is a particular concern for us.

“I think a person's time when in custody is a really unique opportunity for somebody to deal with their addiction.

“Oftentimes it's that addiction that has led to their offending behaviour and led them to come into prison in the first place.

“So I would urge all family members, when they're visiting a prison, please don't bring drugs into your loved ones.

Drug tabs found hidden in legal correspondence that was sent to a prisoner in Mountjoy Prison

“And if you are being put under duress we have a confidential helpline that people can contact us on. We would urge people to contact us anonymously to disclose that information to us.”

Ms Caffrey also revealed how the Prison Service is examine technological advances and implementing new technologies within prisons to deal with the drugs issue.

“One is our drone identification system that's now in operation six of our closed prisons and is proving very successful.

“We've also introduced new scanners similar to those in the airport where they also swab for explosives.

“In our prisons we're now swabbing for drugs so every visitor coming into our prisons are swabbed and if there's an indication that they've been in contact with drugs they're not allowed to have an open visit with the family member.

“We're also looking at new body scanning technology, some of which is in operation now in in airports in Ireland, and it's our intention to introduce one of these new generation body scanners in Limerick Prison when that new wing opens later on this year.”

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