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Positive prisoner drug tests lowest in years

Positive prisoner random drug tests lowest in eight years

The proportion of prisoners testing positive in general random drug tests is at the lowest level since testing began eight years ago, according to Department of Corrections figures.

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

Corrections Chief Executive Barry Matthews said the steady decline in positive tests reflects increasing vigilance in preventing drugs getting into prisons and in managing prisoners who are known to be drug users.

Mr Matthews said some years had produced small upward fluctuations in positive drug tests, but the trend overall was very definitely downward.

“The trend is very pleasing considering the efforts people go to get drugs into prisons,” he said.

In the last three years, the number of illegal items confiscated from visitors to prisons more than doubled to 1509 in 2005. Around two-thirds of those items were drug-related.

While cannabis accounts for the vast majority of drug finds, there has been a rise in amphetamine-type drugs detected.

Mr Matthews said prison drug trends reflected society at large and it was only due to much more stringent contraband detection measures and the dedicated efforts of Corrections staff that drug use in prisons had declined.

“Surveillance at checkpoints has been stepped up with the use of drug dogs and television monitoring of visitor areas,” Mr Matthews said.

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

“Despite risking imprisonment themselves, visitors remain determined to get drugs into prisons and it’s only our vigilance that is containing their use,” Mr Matthews said.


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