No positive results from random drug tests conducted over the last nine months at Christchurch Women’s Prison shows that the methods used to secure the prison’s borders are working.
“Since September last year we haven’t had a single general random test return a positive result. This is a fantastic achievement, with our drug strategies and ‘on the ground’ work from staff directly credited for this high standard – though I am mindful that only one test could change it,” says Prison Manager Wayne McKnight.
“We know a zero result doesn’t mean there are no drugs at all in Christchurch Women’s, but with no way to cheat the test or the results, the measures we have in place to stop contraband being accessible are working.”
General random urine tests are conducted across all 20 prisons in New Zealand, with around 80 tests being carried out every week – nationally the general random positive test are a low 11 percent.
A computer programme at Corrections’ National Office in Wellington determines the prisoners to be tested using a pre-defined algorithm for random selection. Staff supervise the tests to ensure they aren’t tampered with, and samples are sent to an external laboratory for analysis.
“If a prisoner returns a positive test they become ‘IDU’ – an identified drug user. A prisoner who is IDU may be excluded from some work parties, possibly face internal charges and conduct visits with family and friends through the plexi-glass screen of a non-contact booth.
“Staff are proactive and enthusiastic in the area of drug reduction and in offering assistance and advice to our prisoners in the area of drug rehabilitation.
“Over the last several years we have had ongoing Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and DrugArm programmes available to the prisoners to assist them in the area of drug and alcohol addiction. Our health staff are also very proactive and supply information to prisoners on addiction issues.
“Even so, prisoners can’t take drugs if we stop them getting inside so prevention is the key. We have a highly secure perimeter with a single point of entry where every person coming into the prison must pass through a metal detector and have their belongings scanned.”
While the physical design of the site helps keep contraband on the outside, staff are also responsible for tiny and easy to conceal substances like methamphetamine being kept from the hands of women who may have long histories of drug abuse, or even drug-related offending that has led to their time in prison.
“We search absolutely everything – prisoners’ cells, visitors’ cars, staff and their possessions, courier drivers’ vans, incoming mail and property dropped off for prisoners.
“The excellent work by custodial staff, with the assistance from the drug dog teams and close cooperation with the regional Operational Intelligence Unit has kept our general random result at this level.
“Keeping drugs out of prison isn’t just a nice statistic to talk about. It also means a safer working environment for our staff, a safer prison for women to be managed in, and a safer community for the public. Our sustained efforts to provide women with substance abuse issues the chance to get clean and possibly undertake treatment, leads to a reduced risk of re-offending for many.”
For further information contact the Communications Services Desk:
Copyright © Department of Corrections | Feedback and queries email: firstname.lastname@example.org