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More inmates charged for prison contraband

Issued: 30 April 2013
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​The number of NSW prisoners charged for contraband possession has increased almost 60 per cent as a specialist prison security squad stepped up its raids of NSW prisons.

Corrective Services NSW’ (CSNSW) Security Operations Group (SOG) carried out 17,000 more searches last year than it did in 2011, yielding a major increase in the number of inmates being charged with contraband offences.

Specialist SOG searches inside prisons last year resulted in 198 inmates facing criminal or correctional charges for possession of contraband including mobile phones, weapons and drugs compared to 125 prisoners in 2011.

CSNSW Commissioner Peter Severin said this was a 58 per cent increase in the number of prisoners charged.

"These great results are due to our vigilance and tenacity in tackling contraband, which is a significant threat to the safe and secure operation of Correctional Centres," Mr Severin said.

"We are increasing our searches, beefing up our search methods and using strong intelligence to stay on top of the new and devious ways prisoners attempt to hide contraband."

SOG, a highly trained unit with K9 drug and mobile phone sniffer dogs, conducts overt and covert operations including surprise late-night cell searches to uncover contraband.

Last year SOG did 92,560 searches of prisoners, cells and common areas inside prisons – 17,522 more searches than in 2011. Last year:

  • Searches of common areas like meal rooms and bathrooms increased 55 per cent to 9,514
  • Searches using drug detector K9s in common areas increased 303 per cent to 859
  • Officer pat-down searches of inmates rose 47 per cent to 17,820
  • Cell searches with K9s rose 35 per cent to 10,169
  • Contraband seized included mobile phones, weapons, syringes, illicit drugs, non-prescribed steroids, tattoo guns, money and alcohol

Mr Severin said the increase in common area searches showed CSNSW acted on a recent trend of inmates trying to distance themselves from contraband ownership by storing it in common areas. K9 cell searches targeted inmates’ attempts to secrete mobile phones and drugs in difficult-to-reach areas such as wall cavities.

"Our message to inmates is, we’ll find it and you’ll face consequences including more jail time and loss of privileges. We’re also searching visitors attempting to bring contraband in."

A SOG raid of prisoner accommodation at the Outer Metropolitan Multi-Purpose Correctional Centre within the John Morony Correctional Complex on 17 April yielded a mobile phone with
charger attached, inside a wall cavity in a cell shared by two inmates. In the same raid, an inmate was found with a USB stick in his pocket in a bathroom.

Charges by police

Police may lay criminal charges for offences including possession of illegal drugs, weapons, and mobile phones inside a NSW Correctional Centre. The criminal offence penalty for a mobile
phone possession in prison is a maximum two years’ imprisonment and/or a maximum $5,500 fine.

Correctional centre charges

Correctional centre offences include:

  • create or possess prohibited goods
  • resist or impede search
  • convey or deliver to, or receive from, visitors unauthorised articles
  • possess camera or video or audio recording equipment or charger
  • use or possess mobile phone, mobile phone SIM card or mobile phone charger
  • conceal for purpose of escape
  • conceal item for use in escape or other offence
  • possess offensive weapon or instrument
  • possess or consume alcohol
  • prepare or manufacture alcohol
  • possess drug
  • administer drug
  • possess drug implement
  • self-intoxication
  • fail prescribed urine test

For the above offences, inmates face penalties including:

  • deprivation, for up to 56 days, of specified privileges including contact visits, use of the prison phone system except for legal, investigative and complaint-handling purposes, and access to TV, radio, videos, CDs and DVDs
  • confinement to a cell for up to 7 days, with or without deprivation of specified privileges
  • cancellation of additional wages beyond the base inmate work pay rate

Specific correctional centre penalties apply to possession of a mobile phone, SIM card or mobile phone charger. They include removal of specified privileges for up to six months including:

  • contact visits with family and friends
  • use of the prison telephone system except for legal, investigative and complaint-handling purposes
  • access to TV, radio, videos, CDs and DVDs
  • ability to purchase extra food, goods and toiletries from the buy-up program
  • ability to keep previously approved personal property in cells

Alternatively, Centre management may choose to impose a range of penalties including confinement to a cell for up to 7 days and deprivation of any or all specified privileges for up to 56 days.