Large amount of drugs seized

JOELLE DALLY AND BEN HEATHER
Last updated 09:00 05/11/2012

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Drugs are being seized from Christchurch Prison inmates more than in any other prison in the country, as contraband seizures in New Zealand prisons continue to rise.

Corrections Department figures show drugs were confiscated on 137 occasions at Christchurch Prison from July 1, 2011 to May 30, 2012.

Twenty communication devices, mostly cellphones, were also seized, along with 103 tattooing tools and 27 weapons.

The second biggest drug haul tally for the same period was at Rimutaka Prison, with 116 drugs seizures.

Corrections services assistant general manager Maria McDonald said many seemingly harmless household items were also banned in prisons because they could be adapted to illegal uses.

"Even sugar may be contraband in prisons if stockpiled, as it could be used for homebrew," she said.

Other items banned include honey, fruit juice and electric toothbrushes.

Nationally there were 1401 more contraband seizures in the 11 months to June compared to the previous year.

Corrections said the jump corresponded to increased effort to smuggle tobacco, which was banned in prisons in July late year.

With the exception of tobacco, drugs were the most commonly seized product, with more than 3400 intercepts since December 2009.

Christchurch Prison had the most drug intercepts of any prison in each of the last three years. Nationally, the Corrections figures show more than 6000 banned items were seized coming into prisons in the 11 months to June - some with the help of Corrections staff.

Thirteen staff were disciplined for smuggling for the three years to December 2011.

Drugs that were not smuggled by staff were sometimes thrown over roadside prison fences, in what was known as a "throw-over", and in other instances snuck in by visitors.

McDonald said most staff were very professional but a few had "let the side down".

Changes had been made recently to improve staff "integrity", including drug testing and credit checks for staff with financial responsibilities, she said.

The department has refused to release details of the smuggling but some guards were charged with corruption, and possession or supply of contraband.

In June last year, Rimutaka Prison guard Johan Edwin Clarke was sentenced to two years and three months in prison for corruption.

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- The Press

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