Prison visiting committees have recommended that more should be done to tackle the ongoing problems of drugs, overcrowding and people with a mental illness being detained in the country's jails.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald published 11 prison visiting committee reports this morning.

By-and-large the visiting committee to the country's prisons were satisfied with conditions inside with some criticisms.
The Mountjoy Committee said the Prison Service has identified drug routes into the prison and a high priority should be given to reducing the supply.
It also said the amount of time protected prisoners spend in their cells, in some cases 22 out of 24 hours, should be reduced.
The high number of prisoners on protection, as well as overcrowding, has also been identified as problems in Limerick and Cork Prisons.

The Clover Hill committee said inmates were last year sleeping on mattresses and floors.

It has "forcefully" reiterated the link between tensions and overcrowding and is urging the Irish Prison Service to be more proactive in dealing with this potentially dangerous situation in order to be more effective in finding a solution.

It also said it was disappointed that the drugs dog was not being used during the week and that it never encountered a dog on any of its visits.

The Cork Committee said it was also concerned about the welfare of prisoners with a mental illness and pointed out that some people are being sent to jail because there is nowhere else for them to go.

It also took issue with comments attributed to the Inspector of Prisons that the D-Wing in Cork was "filthy and cold" and said every time the committee visited - it was clean and warm in spite of the archaic conditions of the prison.

The committee at St Patrick's Institution has questioned whether Oberstown, once the prison is closed, will be able to cope with a cohort of unruly 17-year olds-responsible for violence, hospitalising prison officers and vulnerable inmates being placed on protection.

The Dóchas visiting committee says that some women are not released when they should be, due to homelessness and this needs to be urgently addressed.

It also says women are being sent to the prison from the courts when non-custodial, medical or therapeutic intervention could deal with their needs more appropriately and effectively.

It also points out the mother and baby unit at the prison is well equipped and that less women with babies were sent to prison last year than the year before.

However, it says prices at the Tuck shop there are "prohibitive" for many women.

Prisoners in the Midlands also complained to the committee there about the price of goods in the Tuck shop but the Castlerea committee declared the shop there a "resounding success".

There were no incidents of drug use in Arbour Hill last year but the committee found an "enormous need" for transitional accommodation to re-integrate sex offenders back into society.