Drugs gangs join forces in prisons, says Langton

 

MAJOR DRUGS gangs from Limerick and Dublin are joining forces in prisons in a bid to intimidate other inmates and “rule by fear”, the chairman of the Mountjoy Prison visiting committee Stephen Langton said.

The co-operation between gangs in their efforts to dominate some jails had worsened this decade since the emergence of gangs like the McCarthy-Dundons in Limerick and similar groups in Dublin, he said.

In Mountjoy at any one time there were inmates from “15 or 16 gangs”.

These had to be segregated which proved very difficult.

“Gangs in jails have increased in number and stature, they have become fashionable,” he said.

He believed gangs were using smuggled mobile phones in jails to organise shootings and drug deals outside the jail.

“The phones are being brought in in bits and pieces,” Mr Langton said.

“They’re also wrapping them up in foam and throwing them over the prison walls .

‘‘You might have two prison officers in the yard with up to 70 prisoners. If 10 of them decide to rush for an object then the prison officers haven’t a chance. You’d want 20 prison officers in the yard to try and stop it.”

Like visiting committees in all jails, the Mountjoy committee chaired by Mr Langton is appointed by the Government to visit jails throughout the year, monitor conditions and compile reports for government.

Mr Langton told The Irish Timesvulnerable inmates were being pressured by gangs into hiding parts of phones and other items in their cells.

Gangs often found inmates willing to perform tasks for payment in drugs.

Other inmates were threatened they would be harmed unless they did what they were told by the gangs.

Some gangs asked inmates to attack other prisoners with the promise of a financial reward on the outside on release.

Often gangs paid for prison attacks, including stabbings, to be carried out on their own former associates awaiting trial because they were planning to plead guilty to their crimes.

Mr Langton said some gangs believe a guilty plea by one gang member incriminates others who are facing charges for the same crime and are planning to plead not guilty.

“They’re attacked to make them change their [plea]. There’s guys [in prisons] with €50,000 on their heads,” he said.

He believed the roll-out of technology to block mobile phone signals was slow and said the walls of Limerick and Mountjoy prisons were too thick for blocking technology to reach many parts of the jails. He doubted the technology would ever be rolled out there.