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Question

76. Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the measures in place in the prison services to prevent unlawful use of mobile phones by inmates; if consideration has been provided to the sue of any form of technology to block mobile phone signals in prisons; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4065/15]

Answer

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I wish to advise the Deputy that possession of a mobile phone in prison is a criminal offence under section 36 of the Prisons Act, 2007. A prisoner found to be in possession of a mobile phone is liable to be dealt with under the prison disciplinary system and the matter referred to an Garda Síochána for investigation and possible prosecution.
My officials in the Irish Prison Service are currently considering a number of technologies with a view to blocking mobile phone signals in and out of prisons and for obvious security reasons, the Deputy will appreciate that I cannot go into detail on the range of options and issues currently being considered.
Through a vigorous approach to screening and searching, the Operational Support Group continues to recover numerous mobile phones and components. The provision of mobile phone blockers would limit this activity and reduce the threat that it poses to society both inside and outside of prisons.
The measures currently in place to prevent the use of mobile phones by prisoners include metal detectors and other screening equipment at the point of entry to prisons, the use of active canine detection teams in recovering same from vehicles and buildings, as well as random and intelligence-led targeted searching of prisoners and locations within the prison Estate.
These searches have been particularly effective and local intelligence indicates that the availability of mobile phones has decreased across the prison system. The number of mobile phones seized in prisons has reduced, year on year, since 2009, and the Deputy can be assured that the prevention of the smuggling of phones and other contraband remains a priority for the Irish Prison Service.

Mobile Phone Seizures 2010 to 2014

Prison/Place of Detention

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014
Arbour Hill
1
2
1
1
0
Castlerea
43
42
29
43
38
Cloverhill
16
20
35
30
50
Cork
13
30
11
8
3
Dóchas Centre
12
42
10
1
6
Limerick
133
100
123
55
18
Loughan House
155
104
57
52
66
Midlands
92
123
82
114
59
Mountjoy (Male)
742
420
336
238
223
Portlaoise
18
27
3
11
52
Shelton Abbey
88
77
86
19
5
St. Patrick's
138
220
278
119
109
Training Unit
191
113
78
92
55
Wheatfield
76
48
21
22
44
Total
1,718
1,368
1,150
805
728