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Prisons: Drugs

Volume 498: debated on Tuesday 27 October 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what progress is being made in reducing the availability of illegal drugs in each prison in Northern Ireland. (295926)

The Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS) takes very seriously its responsibility to stop illegal drugs entering establishments. Visitors, staff and others are required to undergo a rub-down search, and items brought into prisons are subject to a Rapiscan search. A passive drugs dog is used to screen visitors to prisoners before admission to the visits room. Prisoners entering or leaving the visits room are subject to either a rub-down or full search; the latter requires removal of clothing. CCTV operates in all visits rooms, and includes the use of new CCTV equipment at Maghaberry. Supervisory staff patrol the visits room with modern, discreet communication links to the CCTV operator. Searching takes place regularly throughout establishments including active search dogs trained to detect secreted drugs.

This year NIPS introduced new procedures for management of prisoners' private cash. Co-operation between NIPS and PSNI has increased with a better flow of intelligence and targeted searching of visitors and accommodation areas. Revised Prison Rules will be introduced by the year end to facilitate mandatory drug testing of all prisoners using new saliva testing procedures to replace the current urine test. Governors will have delegated authority to ban visitors and impose closed visits on prisoners and visitors who abuse the visiting arrangements.