Pubdate: Mon, 18 Feb 2008
Source: Irish Times, The (Ireland)
Copyright: 2008 The Irish Times
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)


Inmates in the Republic's prisons have tested positive for drugs 
40,000 times over the past three years, according to figures obtained 
by The Irish Times.  Detection rates are as high as 75 per cent in some jails.

The results were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. They 
represent the first published evidence of the extent of the prison 
drug problem and will prove embarrassing for the Government.

The new data reveal no reduction in drug consumption in prisons since 
the launch in late 2004 of the Government's drug-free prison policy. 
The number of tests carried out has actually fallen since the policy 
was launched.

Most of those inmates who tested positive across the system were 
positive for a cocktail of drugs. Some 33,779 of the positive tests 
were for cannabis, 26,584 for benzodiazepines, 25,346 for opiates, 
2,017 for cocaine, 850 for alcohol and 620 for amphetamines.

There are 3,200 inmates in prison at any one time, with about 10,000 
committals every year. Many inmates are tested for drugs more than 
once per year.

The rate of positive tests across the prison population has remained 
at about the same levels in the past three years. Of the 25,362 tests 
carried out in the first nine months of last year, 36 per cent were 
positive for traces of banned substances.

In 2006, 25,276 tests were carried out, with 37 per cent giving 
positive results. In 2005 some 37,288 tests were carried out, with 47 
per cent testing positive.

The higher percentage rate of positive tests in 2005 is attributable 
to the fact that 8,300 more tests were carried out at Mountjoy 
Prison, Dublin, that year than in 2006.

Reducing testing in the prison with the worst drug problem would 
artificially bring down the national positive test rate.

The combined number of positive tests for 2005, 2006 and the first 
nine months of 2007 was 36,365. Some 9,123 positive tests were 
recorded in the first nine months of last year. Assuming a similar 
rate for the remainder of the year, the combined number of positives 
for the full three-year period was just under 40,000. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake