The West

A drug dog searches a car outside Hakea prison.

WA's prisons boss has asked police to bring back a dedicated squad to clean up corruption and drug use in jails.

Corrective Services Commissioner James McMahon wrote to Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan yesterday requesting his help after an inquiry found WA prisons were awash with drugs.

The inquiry also found prison staff were directly involved in the flow of drugs.

Corrective Services Minister Joe Francis welcomed those findings yesterday and said they vindicated his push to introduce disciplinary procedures for prison officers, which their union called draconian.

The changes would give the commissioner the power to sack officers if he lost confidence in their integrity.

"Everyone out there has known and sniggered under their hand for decades about drugs getting into prisons," Mr Francis said.

"I can't allow drug users and addicts to continue their addiction behind the bars of a prison. I know I can't stop all of it all of the time. I am a realist, but I am not a defeatist."

When Mr Francis took over the portfolio a year ago, he said he was shocked at the extent of problems within his department.

He asked police to investigate and the resulting Operation Ulysses resulted in more than 40 people charged, including prison staff. At least two officers have resigned and others are still being investigated.

Task force police believe they barely scratched the surface during their six-month inquiry and also recommended that a permanent prison squad be formed.

WA has been without a prison squad since 2005 when it was closed with little explanation.

A spokeswoman for Mr O'Callaghan said he would soon discuss with Mr McMahon the issues the task force identified but he would not commit to forming a new unit.

At issue will be the cost of any new squad which it is understood would have to be funded from within the existing police budget.

But Mr Francis indicated yesterday his department might be able to meet some of the cost.

"I am red hot on the idea," he said.

"I want sworn police involvement in the Department of Corrective Services."

The West Australian

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