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Dublin: 10 °C Wednesday 16 October, 2019
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'I've seen people being sliced, being kicked around in prison - it's all because of drugs'

A former inmate described the devastating impact the availability of drugs has on the lives of those both inside and outside our prisons.

Image: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

A FORMER INMATE at an Irish prison has described the impact the easy availability of drugs has on the prison population, causing violence and destroying the lives of people both inside and outside the walls of the jails.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie yesterday, the former inmate who wished to remain anonymous, said he believes drugs cause “mayhem” in prison.

“I’ve seen the prison being calm, nice and relaxed. As soon as the drugs come in, it’s all biting each other’s backs, all at each other’s throats over ‘I didn’t get this amount, you got this, I gave you that last week, you owe me this, I owe you that’,” he explained.

Then if you have a physical argument with someone and if you get the better of them, they’ll just give a young fellow a €20 bag of heroin and tell him: ‘Go over and slice him up’.

Helpline

The man was speaking as the Irish Prison Service launched a confidential helpline to encourage inmates and members of the public to tell them about drugs, weapons and mobile phones that are being smuggled in. Prison representatives spoke of the devastating effect of drugs on the lives of people in prison.

Tony Geoghan of Merchants Quay Ireland also told reporters that the lure of drugs can be very strong and can be exploited by others, particularly in the prison system.

The availability of drugs in prison “seriously undermines people’s efforts to live a better life and leave drugs behind,” he said.

The former prison inmate said a friend of his who first went into prison 20 years ago had never taken a drug in his life.

“Today he is still a heroin addict,” he said.

It’s hard to avoid it. It’s very very hard. It’s like living in a little set of flats, we’ll say, and if your neighbour is taking drugs and you’re going around the yard it’s very difficult to say no.

Violence

Yesterday prison officers displayed an array of homemade weapons seized in Irish prisons and the man said violence during his jail time was rampant – and all connected to the massive drug business being run inside the walls.

Chief officer at the Irish Prison Service, Ben Buckley, said the most common and “most barbaric” weapon is a double razor blade in a toothbrush. A wound caused by this instrument will be difficult to stitch and will cause a permanent scar.

The former inmate who spoke to us, also described some of the violence and intimidation he saw:

I’ve heard of prisoners holding prisoners hostage, ringing up his family and demanding money and getting the money. It does happen. I’ve seen people being sliced, I’ve seen people with scars – nasty scars from prison – seen people being kicked around for nothing.

“It’s all drug related, everything is drug related, without a doubt. When they get the drugs into them they don’t care, they don’t think about the consequences,” he said.

He also said attacks on prison officers are often drug-fuelled or have been arranged as a way of paying a drug debt.

The man, who is a former addict, was in a drug-treatment centre for six months before he went to prison and he said this treatment and the therapy he attended helped him to say ‘no’ when the time came.

He shared a four-man cell with three addicts who were regularly using and though he was tempted, he never gave in.

It was tough but I got there.

He has been clean and has not committed a crime since 2009, having been fairly high up the ladder in the drug world before then.

With pride he told us “I’ve changed”, adding prison life and drug therapy helped him to leave that dark world in the past. He hopes the same can be done for men and women just like him.

Read: These are just some of the lethal homemade weapons seized in Irish prisons>

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