OVER 700 prisoners in Irish jails are receiving methadone treatment for drug addiction.

According to figures obtained by Labour TD for Cork South Central Ciarán Lynch, there are 703 prisoners receiving methadone treatment in eight of the 14 prisons. Dublin's prisons have the most prisoners on methadone with 249 in Mountjoy, 172 in Cloverhill and 98 in Wheatfield prison.

Lynch said: "There are 700 people on methadone treatment programmes in prison and that is not counting the percentage of the drug addicted prison population that are not on these programmes. The relation between drug addiction and crime is very well established, so there is a clear need for a sentencing policy that recognises the relationship between serious addiction and criminal behaviour.

"There needs to be programmes put in place in prisons to ensure that when a sentence is complete, a prisoner who enters as an addict does not exit it as an addict and continue to be involved in criminal behaviour.

"Where it has been revealed in court that the crime was related to the accused being addicted to drugs, then the release date should be determined by that prisoner's participation in treatment in prison. If a person does not participate they should not get any early release from prison in the absence of completing an addiction programme."