Almost 3000 visitors to Northland Region Corrections Facility have been subject to having themselves and their vehicles searched by teams of staff and drug dog Roxy over the last three months and evidence suggests that the searches are putting people off trying to smuggle drugs into the prison.
“Under the Corrections Act 2004 our staff can search any person entering a prison. We carry out search operations on the road leading to the prison carpark with teams of staff and the dog searching visitors, contractors and staff with the intent of preventing contraband getting into the prison,” says Acting Prison Manager Dave Pattinson.
Contraband in a prison increases the risk to staff and prisoner safety. It includes drugs, utensils for taking drugs, weapons such as knives, pornography, cash, gang regalia, tools such as screwdrivers and alcohol among other things.
“Since the middle of February, we have conducted 85 prison checkpoint operations, searched 1594 cars and processed 2876 visitors. While the majority of searches gave staff no cause for concern, there were 148 warnings handed out, 22 ‘exclusions’ issued – banning people from the prison for varying periods of time – and three arrests made.
“Two of the arrests were for women attempting to conceal drugs – one on her baby, and another under the dashboard of her car. The other arrest was of a contractor at the site who was found to have drugs hidden in his sock.
“The information we have from our Operational Intelligence team is that the increased searching of people coming into the prison has decreased the amount of drugs getting from visitors to prisoners. The chance of getting caught is now higher, and that could be acting as a deterrent. The unfortunate reality however is that when we close down one source, prisoners are attempting to find other ways to get their ‘fix’,” says Mr Pattinson.
“Prisoners exert all kinds of pressure on their partners, their parents and their friends to bring drugs into the prison for them. Drugs have such a stronghold on some prisoners that they will blackmail friends, threaten people with violence or send gang associates around to the family home to frighten or harm their partners.
“Keeping drugs out of prison doesn’t just give us nice statistics to herald. It means a safer environment for our staff to work in, a safer prison for prisoners to be managed in, and a safer community for the public through a sustained effort to provide prisoners with substance abuse issues the chance to get clean and possibly undertake treatment, leading to a reduced risk of reoffending for many.”
Note to journalist:
A warning is issued when staff find contraband, but believe there is reasonable cause for the person to have it with them. For example, a hunter with a knife in his glovebox, or a builder with tools. The visitor is told to secure the items in the boot of their car and can proceed into the prison after being warned not to bring the items with them again.
An exclusion can be issued to a person with a small amount of drugs on them – the drugs are confiscated, the matter is reported to Police and the person can be banned for between 24 hours and 12 months.
When a person is found in possession of significant amount of drugs the visitor can be detained by staff while Police are called to attend the site and arrest the person and lay criminal charges against them. A person arrested at the site would also be banned for a period of time.
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