Irish Prison Service failing to identify drugs seized in jails

Service ‘does not have lab ability to forensically test for chemical structure of drugs’

The Irish Prison Service is failing to meet a 2006 policy commitment to record and monitor what type of drugs are seized in jails.

Belfast-based investigative outlet The Detail submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request in August last year for data on the type of drugs seized in prisons in the Republic.

The prison service’s own “Keeping Drugs Out of Prison” policy requires a security committee in each facility to “record accurate statistics” on drug seizures, including the type, volume, and location of each seizure.

The policy is designed to curb the flow of drugs in prison and ensure the safety of prisoners and staff.


The prison service refused the FOI request on security and public safety grounds.

On appeal to the Information Commissioner, however, it has transpired that the policy on recording data on drug seizures “is not applied” and that no such records are kept by any prison.


In the wake of the Information Commissioner’s correspondence issued last week, the prison service issued a further statement to The Detail confirming that some data is recorded, not by a security committee as per policy, but by an operational security group (OSG).

The prison service said: “The OSG maintain records of their contraband finds in prisons, this includes the locations, person (if applicable) and the type of contraband if known. On occasion the OSG are required to record the physical aspects of the contraband ie white powder, blue tablets etc.. if the exact drug is not readily identifiable.

“The IPS [Irish Prison Service] does not have the lab ability to forensically test for chemical structure of drugs etc.. we do if necessary in specific cases refer some substances to AGS [An Garda Síochána] for testing.”

While this partial data has not been released by the prison service, it said the 2006 ‘Keeping Drugs Out of Prison’ policy is “under review”.