March 10, 2010, 9:33 a.m. FAMILY and friends visiting inmates at Loddon Prison have been busted smuggling drugs, knives and syringes into the jail.The number of banned items seized has increased by almost 50 per cent in the past year.The Security and Emergency Services Group caught visitors bringing in 38 banned items in the 2008-09 financial year.The items seized include 21 syringes, six smoking implements and five knives.Marijuana was found on visitors five times and white powder once.Corrections Minister Bob Cameron said the SESG searched more than 33,000 visitors last year in prisons throughout Victoria _ an increase of about 6000 random and targeted drug searches since 2006-07. Loddon Prison is a medium-security facility near Castlemaine that houses about 320 prisoners.
The high-visibility search team members and their trained drug detection dogs means would-be smugglers need to think twice about trying to introduce drugs and other illegal items into the prison system, Mr Cameron said. People caught with illicit drugs or controlled weapons are immediately banned from visiting prisons and referred to Victoria Police to face possible charges. Visitors were found with 26 seized items in the 2007-08 financial year.Seventeen more syringes were confiscated in the past year.
Marijuana was found four more times.White powder detections fell by seven and the number of knives found fell by two. Mr Cameron said illegal items were detected using: Walk-through Ion scanners that can detect illegal substances such as cocaine, heroin, amphetamines, methamphetamines and explosives; Walk-through security booths; Hand-held scanners and X-ray machines; and Drug detection dogs. Drug detection dogs also search inbound mail and property left for prisoners.Corrections Victoria Commissioner Bob Hastings said: A number of deceptive methods are used by visitors to try and get contraband through the surveillance net and Corrections Victoria is always looking at new ways to help detect these items.
Justice Action spokesman Brett Collins said more effort should be put into rehabilitating criminals with drug addictions, as opposed to improving the search powers of the SESG.Justice Action is a community-based organisation of criminal justice activists. The majority of prisoners at Loddon Prison would be there for a relatively short time, and about three quarters of them would be there for drug offences, Mr Collins said. As soon as they get out they re straight back into drugs again because the issues that cause drug use are not being addressed.
We need to focus on rehabilitation, so that prisons are safer and the community is safer when these people are released.