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Assurances needed over prison contraband

Simon Power National Party Law & Order Spokesman

8 December 2005

Assurances needed over prison contraband

National's Law & Order spokesman, Simon Power, says the Corrections Minister should assure the public that his department is coping with increasing attempts to smuggle drugs and weapons into 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.

In the first six months of 2005 there were 280 confiscations of drugs, compared with 284 in all 2004 and 224 in 2003. The number of weapons confiscated in the first six months of 2005 was 91 compared with 196 in all 2004 and 132 in 2003. In addition, the number of cell phones found inside prisons is rocketing.

Mr Power says he is alarmed at the type of material seized from prison visitors.

"It is great that so much is being intercepted, but what is really worrying is how much is getting through.

"If 160 cell phones can be smuggled into prisons in the first three-and-a-half months of this year, it makes you wonder what else is getting in.

"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.

"Perhaps a start would be to put the money being used on the failed prisoner tattoo removal scheme towards improved surveillance in visiting rooms," Mr Power says.


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