A NUMBER of prisoners in Mountjoy jail tore up forms earlier this month as a protest against being asked to limit the number of visitors and a new rule whereby visitors would have to provide photographic identification.

The system was due to be introduced on Monday in the prison. The men were told by officers that they would have to fill in a form naming four people from whom they would be receiving visits. They were also told that visitors would not be admitted to the visiting room unless they produced a form of photo ID.

Prison sources said prisoners reacted badly to the change in the system. At one stage, the official forms to name visitors were torn up and thrown around. A senior officer subsequently warned staff that prisoners had made threats against officers, including planting syringes on door locks, if the system was introduced.

A spokesman for the Interim Prisons Board said the main purpose of the scheme was to combat drug smuggling at the prison. "There is a scheme of someone giving a false name, meeting a prisoner they don't know anything about and passing drugs to him." The spokesman said the prisoners who were organising drug-trafficking into the jail often put pressure on other innocent prisoners to accept a visit from someone they did not know in order to distance themselves from the haul if the drugs were seized by prison officers.

Following the outcry from prisoners, the authorities have increased the number of named visitors they can have to six people. The spokesman said it was not necessary for prisoners to name children on that list as children would not be counted among the six permitted visitors. Visitors to prisoners are currently recorded daily in a hand-written log.

One prison source said when gardaí inquired about visits received by prisoners, it was not possible to access that information on the prison computer system.

"It's working very well, " the spokesman said. Prisoners would have an option to change the names on their visitor list at certain intervals. The system has only been introduced in Mountjoy, the prison with the worst drug problem in the state.

The spokesman said there was no plan yet to implement it in the rest of the prison system.