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Crackdown in prisons: women drug smugglers banned​

Issued: 8 January 2014
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Women caught smuggling drugs to inmates are being criminally charged and banned from entering a prison for two years, Corrective Services NSW (CSNSW) Commissioner Peter Severin has warned.

Mr Severin today announced that CSNSW had a record year in 2013 for visitor searches at the state’s correctional centres, with more than 97,000 searches conducted by a specialist squad of officers and sniffer dogs, the Security Operations Group (SOG).

He said the SOG used strong intelligence gathered inside the prison system to conduct targeted visitor search operations across the state and stop contraband entering the system. Last year SOG operations resulted in 173 visitors to inmates being charged and 583 denied entry.

"We are stepping up the fight against prison contraband – our 2013 visitor search numbers of almost 100,000 represent an increase of almost 40 per cent from the previous year,’" said Mr Severin.

Mr Severin said that in 2013, the SOG detected male and female visitors trying to bring a variety of banned items but drugs and drug paraphernalia remained a particular concern.

In 2013, SOG officers seized a total of 213 grams of powder, 323 grams of cannabis and 1063 tablets before the drugs could enter the prison system.

"Sadly, many of these visitors intercepted with drugs are women, including young women and mothers, who are visiting inmates on the inside," said Mr Severin.

"We know these women are often pressured into bringing in the drugs for their fathers, sons, husbands or boyfriends, or even on behalf of other inmates who may attempt to stand over their loved ones so drugs can be brought to them via visits.

"I cannot warn these women strongly enough: the price they will pay is far too high. It includes facing criminal charges and being banned from visiting inmates for up to two years, and the associated trauma that can cause for their families including children.

"While these visitors may think they are doing the right thing assisting an inmate, their actions introduce a serious threat to the safety and security of our correctional centres, staff and inmates and we will show no tolerance."

Mr Severin said for serious contraband trafficking, two-year prison bans were laid on visitors who then had to apply in writing to plead their case at the end of the period for the ban to be overturned. In some cases, the bans could continue longer.

"Prison visits are a privilege not a right – we will always put the security of our centres first," said Mr Severin.

Mr Severin said visitors caught bringing drugs to prisons faced penalties of up to two years' imprisonment for trafficking drugs into a correctional centre. They could also face additional drug-related criminal charges.

Recent cases of women being charged and receiving two-year bans include:

  • A 20-year-old woman intercepted at the gates of South Coast Correctional Centre as she came to visit a 21-year-old male inmate friend last month. When questioned by CSNSW officers, the woman removed a balloon containing tablets from her bra. CSNSW contacted police, who charged her. CSNSW has banned her from prison visits until at least December 2015.
  • A 39-year-old woman intercepted in the reception room at Bathurst Correctional Centre in November, with illicit drugs in a balloon under her tongue. The woman was going to visit her 36-year old inmate husband when officers asked her to open her mouth and saw the balloon. She was charged by police and CSNSW banned her from prison visits until at least November 2015.
  • A 29-year-old woman intercepted in November as she brought foil-wrapped cannabis to Cessnock Correctional Centre for a 25-year-old male inmate friend. She was charged and banned from prison visits until at least November 2015.
  • In addition, an 18-year-old woman was intercepted with a mobile phone in her bra at South Coast Correctional Centre in November as she went to visit her 41-year-old inmate father. CSNSW banned her from prison visits for 12 months.