Pubdate: 13 Nov, 1999
Source: Irish Times (Ireland)
Copyright: 1999 The Irish Times
Contact:  11-15 D'Olier St, Dublin 2, Ireland
Fax: + 353 1 671 9407
Section: News Features
Author: Eithne Donnellan


Any drug addict unfortunate enough to end up in Mountjoy Prison has little 
chance of coming out drug free. The detox programme in place in the prison 
is grossly inadequate and based on no proven international recommendations, 
according to a prison doctor.

In a review of the detox programme for the director of the Prisons Service, 
Dr Des Crowley, the prison's medical officer, is highly critical of the 
Department of Justice.

By last February only 187 prisoners had completed the "grossly inadequate" 
detox programme in Mountjoy, which was set up in July 1996, he pointed out. 
Yet according to reports this week there are up to 800 prisoners in 
Mountjoy, the largest prison in the State, on any given night. Two-thirds 
of them have a drug problem.

Dr Crowley believes the problem is not being "prioritised to any great 
extent" by the Department, and in his hard-hitting report, which has been 
seen by The Irish Times, he lists a number of problems with the regime and 
says one in particular could lead to the Department being sued.

This is the discontinuation of an addict's methadone treatment when a 
patient enters the prison. The result is many of those who are drug-free in 
the community end up back on heroin in jail.

"The provision of methadone maintenance is endorsed by the Department of 
Health and the Eastern Health Board and a huge amount of resources are 
dedicated each year to the provision of these services in the community, 
yet the Department of Justice does not see fit to continue people 
maintained on methadone in the community when they enter the prison 
system," his report says.

"I feel the Department of Justice are leaving themselves wide open for 
serial litigation if the consequences of discontinuing recognised treatment 
while under their care is the contraction of blood-borne viruses or other 
health problems associated with unsafe use of injecting materials," he adds.

The prison's medical officer also points out that the average age of those 
who entered the detox programme was 26.3 years, and at this stage they had 
an average of 16 convictions.

Half of them had no history of work. "Since most of these convictions are 
for drug related crimes it is quite astonishing that it is only on their 
present conviction that this group of prisoners have been offered a 
significant chance at rehabilitation concerning their opiate addiction," he 
says. "This is a terrible indictment of our policy-makers," he adds. 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Thunder