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Prison smuggling more prevalent in some areas

13 January 2006

Simon Power National Party Law & Order Spokesman

Prison smuggling more prevalent in some areas

National's Law & Order spokesman, Simon Power, says the Corrections Minister should assure residents of Northland, Auckland, Hawke's Bay, the Manawatu and Canterbury that his department can cope with increasing attempts to smuggle drugs and weapons into local prisons.

He is commenting on figures supplied to him by Corrections Minister Damien O'Connor that show an alarming increase in drugs confiscated from visitors entering prisons, as well as air rifles, knives, swords, clubs, ammunition and knuckle-dusters.

Mr Power says the regional breakdown of this information shows that some areas are of far greater concern than others, particularly Northland, Auckland, Hawke's Bay, the Manawatu and Canterbury.

"In the first six months of 2005 there were 226 confiscations of drugs in these five prisons alone - that amounts to 65% of the nationwide total. The number of weapons confiscated in the first six months of 2005 amounts to 63% of the nationwide total.

"In Auckland prison alone there were 350% more drug confiscations than in the entire 2003 year.

"The nature and amount of material seized from prison visitors is quite staggering. This, coupled with the huge number of cell phones confiscated, is of real concern."

In the first three months of last year, 160 cell phones were smuggled into prisons around the country.

Mr Power says while it's great that so much is being intercepted, he remains concerned about how much is getting through, given the almost daily slip-ups being uncovered by the opposition and the media.

"Smuggled weapons put prison guards at risk, and cell phones enable illegal businesses to be run from prison cells. The Minister must assure the public that he is doing all in his power to greatly improve visitor surveillance and searches.

"With the prison population growing rapidly, all surveillance will have to be stepped up, particularly in regions with a high prevalence of attempted smuggling."

ENDS

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