New figures released today by the Department of Corrections show the number of prisoners using drugs has hit a record low.
Acting Prison Services Assistant General Manager Leanne Field says the number of prisoners returning positive results after being randomly tested has plummeted to 10.5 percent, the lowest rate ever recorded across all prisons in New Zealand.
“This is a major achievement given that 34 percent of prisoners tested positive when testing began in the late 1990s,” says Mrs Field.
“This reduction has been achieved through ongoing investment and improvement in prison security, enhanced visitor and prisoners searching. We also undertake regular searches with our 12 drug dog teams and have a highly skilled intelligence team who work to stop criminal activities within prison.”
Mrs Field says the Department is committed to driving down drug use in prisons further.
“However, this is a challenge because prisoners and their associates in the community are very inventive in identifying ways to smuggle contraband into prison and we need to keep one step ahead of them.
“The commencement of the Corrections Amendment Act last week enhances prison security by increasing the search powers of our staff and this should lower drug use in prisons further.
“We are also focussed on reducing the demand for drugs in prison. Many prisoners have very serious drug addictions problems when they enter prison. In fact, these addictions are what caused them to offend in the first place and drives their need to consume drugs while incarcerated.”
Corrections operates Drug Treatment Units in six prisons and these provide intensive programmes that address a prisoner’s alcohol and substance abuse problems.
“We are committed to increasing the number of prisoners who benefit through their time in our Drug Treatment Units. We are on track this year to treat the highest number of prisoners,” says Mrs Field.
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