The West

Alarming rise in drug use in jails
Alarming rise in drug use in jails

Drugs are rife in the State's jails, with more than 1000 drug tests returning positive in 2011-12, according to new figures from the Department of Corrective Services.

Of 8839 tests targeted at inmates suspected of drug use, 1051 resulted in positive findings. Figures on random drug testing for the first eight months of this year show drug taking is increasing, with 79 positive findings - an average of 9.9 per month - from 8.4 a month last year.

The new figures come in the wake of a national report that found the Department of Corrective Service's focus on stopping drugs from getting into the system was ineffective and failed to prevent reoffending on release.

The Australian National Council on Drugs report questioned the value of urine drug testing and of spending an increasing amount of public money providing dogs to search prisons for illicit drugs.

The report suggested education and drug rehabilitation would be more effective in stemming drug use in jails. It found there was no needle exchange in WA prisons and no access to bleach, which could help clean needles to prevent the spread of infections such as hepatitis C and HIV.

A department spokesman defended the strategies used to reduce the supply of drugs in prisons.

"DCS runs a number of education and health programs for offenders, including Health in Prisons, Health Outta Prisons, which looks at issues that increase the risk of contracting and spreading blood-borne viruses, including unprotected sex, unclean tattooing and needle sharing," he said.

But the department was sticking to its zero tolerance policy.

"As such, we do not supply sterile injecting equipment and do not plan to introduce needle exchange programs into the State's prisons," he said.

Other strategies to keep drugs out of prisons included searches of cars, buildings, visitors, departmental staff and offenders, the use of electronic detection technologies and networking with police.

Visitors' eyes are screened for drugs and visitors who are suspected of trafficking drugs into prisons are sanctioned.

The West Australian

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