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Prisoners run drugs under Labour's nose

Simon Power MP
National Party Justice & Corrections Spokesman

3 September 2008

Prisoners run drugs under Labour's nose

If Labour had taken the issue of prison contraband seriously and introduced cellphone blocking technology and telephone monitoring when it said it would, prisoners would not be trafficking drugs, says National's Justice & Corrections spokesman, Simon Power.

"Raids yesterday at Auckland Prison and Spring Hill, which resulted in eight prisoners being charged with serious drug-related offences, are further testimony to the fact that Labour moved much too slowly to crack down on crime being run from inside prisons.

"Police should be congratulated that these raids will significantly disrupt the manufacture of methamphetamine in the North Island.

"But it should not have come to that if Labour had moved when it said it would.

"They did nothing for years. It wasn't till a court was told that $1 million of 'P' was smuggled into New Zealand from Thailand by a Rimutaka prisoner using a smuggled cellphone that this Government finally acted.

"The then-Minister, Damien O'Connor, said Corrections had been working on cellphone blocking technology for four years, but what took them so long?

"And, despite saying in the middle of last year that all prisons should have the technology within a year, the problem is still not fixed.

"Phil Goff admitted today that only four prisons have it, and Auckland and Spring Hill are not among them.

"It also took them till this year to start monitoring all telephone calls made by prisoners, when they had it legislated as long ago as 1999.

"In fact, a Corrections Department document from 2004 expresses concern that 'the fact that legislation is in place and no monitoring is occurring is a continued risk for the Department's credibility,' and notes that it 'has not been operationalised to date due to a lack of funding'.

"This is typical of this department. Monitoring would have cost just $567,000 over four years but because they had a culture of denial that there was a serious contraband problem, they didn't bother finding the money.

"This and the fact that they have not collated contraband finds since 2005 does make you wonder about their commitment to stamping out this problem."


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