About 5 percent of all prison staff are randomly tested for illegal drugs each year


About 5 per cent of all prison staff are randomly tested for illegal drugs each year under a new scheme being introduced by the Irish Prison Service.

The IPS has issued a call for tenders aimed at awarding a contract to a company to conduct illicit substance testing in the country’s 12 adult prisons.

The successful bidder has been informed that they will have to carry out around 200 tests on prison staff per year.

In addition, it is planned to carry out 200 tests per year on people who have applied to work for the IPS.

Also, around 100 ‘reactive’ tests are conducted each year, which require testers to arrive at prisons within 90 minutes of being called to conduct checks.

The alert did not specify which drugs will be tested for and whether they contain alcohol.

The latest figures show that around 3,295 people work in the country’s 10 closed prisons and two open prisons.

The IPS said drug testing will be conducted in accordance with legally acceptable workplace drug testing standards set by the European Workplace Drug Testing Society for prison staff.

Illegal drug use checks are carried out by examining hair or urine samples taken by prison staff.

The winning contractor must also train all prison administration and staff on the new drug testing system.

The contract is awarded for a period of four years with the possibility of extension for two additional 12-month periods.

The proposals for random drug testing of prison staff were put forward during salary negotiations between the IPS and union officials last year.

Both sides acknowledged that there are legitimate concerns that prison staff who use illegal drugs may also give the same substance to prisoners.

In recent years Irish prisons have seen record levels of drug seizures, with an average of over 1,200 illicit substance detections per year, with three prisons – Wheatfield, Mountjoy and Cloverhill – responsible for around three quarters of all seizures.

Similar plans to introduce mandatory drug testing for Gardaí, as well as for the force’s civilian personnel, which had strong support from Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, were delayed due to concerns raised by Garda’s representative bodies. About 5 percent of all prison staff are randomly tested for illegal drugs each year

Fry Electronics Team

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