Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Drugs in prisons

My own feeling is drugs are tacitly okayed or turned-a-blind-eye to in prison. It must be easier to handle prisoners who are 'satisfied' for want of a better word. This table is a response to a question from Simon Power published today;

For perspective there are around 7,000 inmates at any given time. What stands out is the huge increase, forty five percent, between 2003 and 2005. Inside and out, drugs are becoming more pervasive. I believe they are also one reason for more beneficiaries experiencing severe hardship. Only my opinion though, I hasten to add.


crasster said...

The figures do not show this at all. What the figures do show is more effective search and seizures and more accurate reporting - oh, the dramatic increase in prisoner numbers over the last five years has also magnified the risk and the scale of the problem.

Drugs in prisons are not tolerated by any prison officer.

Contrary to the popular layman's views, drugs do not make prisoners more easily managed. In fact, drugs make managing prison far more complicated and risky.

Stand-over, gang activity, suicides, assaults, confused or mentally disordered prisoners, spreading disease,interpersonal conflict...there are hundreds of reasons why drugs in prison represent a direct danger to the prison and its staff. Ask any real Corrections Officer and they will tell you that, if they could effectively stop drugs tomorrow (i.e. 100 percent effectiveness), they would leap at the opportunity.

Corrections has invested heavily in the last few years in security such as perimeter fencing etc. These have had a tremendous impact on the availability of drugs. Corrections has also expanded the number of active drug dogs, search teams and Prison Checkpoints on roads into prisons. These initiatives make it easier to find drugs. As a result of this increasing detection activity, the number of finds continue to grow. Bear in mind, most seizures are occurring at prison borders when visitors are searched.

One of the main opportunities for prisoners to get drugs into prisons is when they work outside of the prison wire.

Even though prisoners are strip searched, Corrections was specifically restricted from having the ability to cavity search - so, smuggling contraband internally is still possible. Despite the risk of contraband, Corrections allows low-risk prisoners out of prisons temporarily to learn work skills in real work environments.

So, the real picture is that:
* drugs make prisons dangerous places and are simply not tolerated
prisons have cracked down harder on drugs over recent years - despite the burgeoning population
* most drugs are being seized from visitors and are never getting to prisoners
* one of the biggest opportunities prisoners have to access drugs is when working outside of prison - but I would have thought you'd want prisoners (many of whom are pretty much unemployable when they come into prison) should be given some skills and experience of actually working and provided with opportunities that may help them secure employment upon release (rather than be a continuing burden on the State)

crasster said...

It might also be fair to show the full Corrections answer:

Drug finds include drug-related equipment as well as drugs themselves.
It should be noted that prison staff do not generally analyse or weigh drug finds. In many cases, these are handed to the Police for further action, which may include laboratory analysis and prosecution.

However, I have attached a table providing all prison confiscations in regard to drugs and drug paraphernalia.

The rise in finds and confiscations, reflects growing muster numbers and stepped up efforts at detection, including increased use of drug dogs and television monitoring of visitor areas.

Since 2004, the number of drug dog teams has doubled and the Government last year allocated a further $4.1 million over four years of crime and drug detection within prisons.

General random drug testing of prisoners suggests that as detection has improved, fewer prisoners are using drugs.

In the nine months to March 2006, 15.6 percent of prisoners tested under the general random programme returned positive results, down from 17.4 percent in the preceding year. This is the lowest rate since testing began eight years ago.

It compares with 34 percent when the first benchmark test was conducted in 1998 and 25.5 percent in 1999.

Lindsay Mitchell said...

Thanks Crasster. I was careful to stress that what I wrote was "my own feeling". Maybe I do fall into the "popular layman's views" category. Statistics can always lend themselves to more than one interpretation.

The muster has risen. Around 20 percent over the same period as confiscations have gone up 45 percent.

Regarding drug testing, are you aware that as well as drugs getting into prison so do substances to mask positive drug-testing? That is why I put more store by what is found in prison than how many inmates test positive.

You might not have read previous blog entries where I oppose the 'war on drugs'. It would appear we are losing it, in the community and in the prisons. But you may be right. I welcome the input.

crasster said...

Random testing is just that...random. Your name is selected off a database and you're frogmarched down to testing area where you're required to urinate a sample.

The most common attempt to thwart testing involves water loading where prisoners attempt to drink large amounts of water to dilute their urine to a point where the tests fail. To do this successfully you need to drink vast amounts of water and, if this is observed at testing (i.e. you have extremely diluted urine) you may be charged with attempting to thwart testing.

I pointed out that there is better reporting, greater investment in security, increased detection technology and teams, as well as a rising prisoner population.

As a taxpayer, given all this investment, I would hope to see an increase in seizures. Oh, and it's important to note that these seizures could be happening at Prison Checkpoints on roads coming into prisons or in visitor rooms or when prisoners return from working outside the wire and not just inside prisons.

Finally, as you would note in the Department's reply, these stats relate to anything drug-related. Which, believe it or not, could include unauthorised possession of money, tampered hardware (say, a tampered electric light bulb)...and not just the drugs themselves. Reporting of these kinds of seizures are increasing as the Department has implemented a comprehensive anti-drug strategy and prison officers have got better at reporting such finds in the computer system.

I am disappointed you fail to acknowledge that your "own feelings" on this issue might simply be wrong and a shame that someone like yourself (with a large network of supporters) has not instead lauded the efforts of Corrections to deal with drugs in prisons (and the success they have had).

The Stats show a Department working hard to win a battle against 7600 criminals and their support networks from working day and night to try and get this dangerous stuff inside.

I feel sorry for the Department. It's doing its best to tackle this issue and instead of getting props from the community - it gets routinely bayoneted by politicians looking for easy headlines and gets little or no support from people who, like yourself, fundamentally agree with its policy of stamping out drug use and getting these prisoners to focus on improving themselves.

Lindsay Mitchell said...

"I am disappointed you fail to acknowledge that your "own feelings" on this issue might simply be wrong"

Crasster, Re-read the last line of my comment. I said YOU MAY BE RIGHT.


If people with more knowledge than me comment here then I learn something. Thanks.

Oswald Bastable said...

As an ex prison officer, I can confirm crasster has an insider's handle on the situation!

Politicians like to talk big about stamping out drugs, but would not give corrections resourcing to take a more active position.

We just didn't have the staff to do the searching and testing we would have liked to have done.

It may have been noticed that there is a bit of a recruitment problem...

If you want to know how drugs are gotten in and concealed , read 'Papillon"!

Brian Smaller said...

Makes you realise the origin of the phrase "good shit man".

Surely non-contact visitations are the answer. If people warrant or earn contact visitation then the visitors must be xrayed - no exceptions so this includes their lawyers, religious instructors or whoever.