A drug free unit the first of its kind in the country opens at Mountjoy Prison Dublin.

Minister for Justice Nora Owen officially opened the first drug free unit in Mountjoy Jail, which is situated next to the prison's Training Unit. Over four hundred prisoners passed through this unit in the past year, learning new skills as they prepared for release.

Now those who opt to transfer to the Drug Free Unit will sign a commitment to observe the drug free regime and undergo regular urine testing. They will also be taking part in a programme of work, training and education. 

The Minister also announced that Mountjoy’s healthcare unit which has been recently refurbished will open next month. Inmates with drug addiction can receive detoxification and therapeutic treatment here, and then continue their sentences in the Drug Free Unit.  

Drug addiction is the prison’s single biggest problem, with over sixty per cent of the prison’s population found to have a drug problem. Half of that number is addicted to heroin.

Reducing the amount of illegal drugs in the prison is a pressing issue says Governor John Lonergan, but this new drug-free facility is the start of something positive,  

Giving people who are drug addicts a real alternative to get off drugs.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 28 March 1996. The reporter is Tom McCaughren.