Sunday Life

Prisons bring in dogs

06 March 2005


Sniffer dogs are now being turned on the inmates at Ulster's jails to fight behind-bars drug-taking.

And the latest move to crack down on smuggling substances into Maghaberry and Magilligan prisons, will hit the jailhouse 'bullies' who have been accused of forcing other inmates to smuggle drugs.

Previously, the sniffer dogs have been used simply to trap visitors smuggling cannabis, cocaine and steroids into the jails.

Said a Prison Service spokesman: "While intelligence indicates that visits is the main route through which drugs are smuggled into prisons, home leave presents a secondary route.

"Some people may be bullied into bringing drugs in for others, and have fears for their safety if unsuccessful.

"By extending the use of passive drug dogs, we hope to protect prisoners from bullying and further restrict drugs coming into establishments."

The move could see prisoners returning from home leave held in solitary confinement, if they have been in contact with anyone using drugs, while on home leave.

The sniffer dogs have caused outrage among some prison visitors by identifying innocent people, whose clothing has been contaminated by smoke.

Among those singled out was a Free Presbyterian minister, who was denied an open visit when sniffed out by the dogs.

The new tests for prisoners returning from home leave comes following the overdose death of a drug-dealer, behind bars, last month.

Kevin Slevin was found dead in his cell in Bann House, in Maghaberry, on February 14.

A 24-hour drug amnesty in the Co Antrim jail, in the wake of Slevin's death, resulted in NO drugs being handed over to prison authorities.

According to the Prison Service's most-recent figures, there were 74 drugs seizures in just three months, between September and November last year.

Among the drugs seized were cannabis, Diazepam tablets and a small amount of heroin.

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