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jailhouse crackdown Record levels of drugs and phones being seized in Irish prisons


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Phones being smuggled into Mountjoy prison

Phones being smuggled into Mountjoy prison

Phones being smuggled into Mountjoy prison

THE amount of drugs and phones seized inside prisons has risen to new record levels as organised crime gangs target jails with ever bigger consignments.

There have been three major seizures in Mountjoy Prison alone as drug gangs struggle to cash in on the lucrative market behind bars.

Two seizures worth €170,000 and €150,000 represents a huge loss for the gangsters controlling the prison trade where drugs are worth three or four times what they are on the outside.

Both consignments are believed to have been linked to inmates associated with the Kinahan cartel and are being investigated by the gardai.

There were 1,191 drug seizures made in the first ten months of 2021, more than in the whole of 2020 and nearly double the figures from five years ago.

The 1,338 phones seized marks an increase from last year's total of 1,251 and is again almost double the number seized in 2016.

The figures were released by the Irish Prison Service this week after a request from the Sunday World.

The growing number of seizures reflect the success of tighter security at prisons.

Last month saw one of the largest ever caches of drugs found in Mountjoy Prison which included an estimated 14,000 LSD tabs along with quantities of cocaine, heroin and several hundred tablets.

Also found in the search were 15 mobile phones, including smart phones and miniature mobiles which are easily concealed.

With fewer visitors arriving at prisons because of Covid restrictions, the main supply has come through other routes which included remand prisoners as they entered the system.

One man was recently found to have three mini-mobile phones along with 800 tranquilliser tablets hidden internally.

The contraband had been sealed in three Kinder eggs and wrapped in a condom, according to Sunday World sources.

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Attempts to deliver drugs by drone have also dropped off thanks to a number of arrests and the replacement of windows in some prison cells around the country.

It leaves the method of delivery down to so-called 'throw-overs' as small-time criminals have drugs thrown into exercise yards in some prisons.

Several attempts to smuggle drugs such as fentanyl into prisons were foiled by the introduction of new scanners.

The drug, which can be bought in spray form, was used to soak letters and photographs which inmates could ingest.

Other attempts were made to smuggle synthetic drugs by infusing documents mailed into prisoners.

These include attempts made by using legal correspondence to hide drugs with infused documents included in packages.

Because legal papers are not subjected to the same scrutiny under prison rules, attempts have also been made using forged documents, purportedly from legitimate legal firms.

But the larger drugs gangs are using their contacts to make more sophisticated attempts to smuggle drugs in through deliveries to the jail.

In November 2020, €170,000 of drugs was found in Mountjoy ,concealed in a pallet of goods being delivered to the prison.

A story in last week's Sunday World showed how Kinahan-linked thugs such as Trevor Byrne have access to mobile phones despite being incarcerated.

He was filmed celebrating a birthday with other cartel-linked criminals including Kevin Gibson, Graham Gardiner, Glen Thompson and Robert Browne.

A spokesperson for the Irish Prison Service said the prevention of contraband being accessed in prison is "a high priority".

"The suspension of visits for significant periods since March 2020, as a result of Covid-19, has forced a shift in the methods used for trafficking contraband into prisons.

"We have seen an increase in the number of 'throw overs' - contacts on the outside attempting to throw mobile phones and drugs into exercise yards.

"Due to the regimes currently in operation in our prisons, prison staff have been able to identify and intercept many of these 'throw-overs' ensuring they do not reach the prison population.

"In addition, staff have increased the use of random and intelligence led cell searches on a daily basis.

"Our Canine Unit carry out searches around the prisons, including a greater focus on searching deliveries.

"Recent examples of this was in Mountjoy Prison where two of the biggest seizures of contraband to date was recorded.

"An increase in drugs found in post, parcels, and prisoner clothing has also increased as a result of visits being suspended.

"Advancements in our drug detection technology has proved particularly effective in identifying drugs that are sprayed on to letters, newspapers, and other prisoner property."

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