ACT News

Searches, dogs and x-rays fail to keep contraband out of the Alexander Maconochie Centre

Contraband is still getting into the Alexander Maconochie Centre, with 727 seizures reported during the 2012/13 and 2013/14 financial years, despite strip searches, dog patrols and x-ray technology. 

According to data supplied by the Minister for Corrective Services, Shane Rattenbury, 695 seizes were made inside the prison, 23 seizures happened when visitors entered the jail, and another nine were in areas shared by detainees and the public.

Slipping through: Makeshift weapons, mobile phones, illicit substances, cigarette lighters and excess food have been ...
Slipping through: Makeshift weapons, mobile phones, illicit substances, cigarette lighters and excess food have been seized at the Alexander Maconochie Centre. Photo: Jay Cronan

Mr Rattenbury said the number of seizures did not represent the number of items seized because "a single seizure may include more than one type of item or contraband".

Some 277 seizures were made in the final six months of 2013, which was double the 138 reported between January and June. Mr Rattenbury attributed the increase to extra searches and more prisoners.

"The predominant reason for this increase is that the AMC conducted a number of extra searches in a targeted effort to both increase general detection as well as responding to intelligence regarding the presence of contraband," he said.

"The increase can also be attributed to a significant increase in detainee numbers at that time."

Everything from makeshift weapons to mobile phones, illicit substances, cigarette lighters, excess food, and unauthorised property was seized. 

The minister said detainees found with contraband were disciplined, and penalties ranged from the "withdrawal of privileges to separate confinement".

"More serious matters can and are referred to police," he said.  

Mr Rattenbury said when visitors were found with a non-prescription drug or other illegal substance, ACT Corrective Services contacted ACT Policing who then took possession of the item. 

According to a Justice and Community Safety Directorate spokeswoman, 27 AMC inmates tested positive for methamphetamine or amphetamines in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 financial years, and authorities seized those drugs on 17 occasions. 

"While a range of steps are taken to prevent contraband entry, unfortunately, as with all Corrections' jurisdictions, contraband continues to be a problem in all prisons," she said. 

The spokeswoman said correction officers at the jail checked the ground every morning before detainees were released from their cells and routinely checked the jail's perimeter.

"In addition, the AMC uses more than 300 CCTV cameras to monitor the movement and behaviour of detainees in the prison," she said. 

"These measures are complemented by the use of ACT Corrective Services intelligence staff, officers and the K-9 unit working together to predict and intercept contraband, where possible, before its entry into the AMC."

The spokeswoman said the government was continuing to work closely with police to limit the supply of drugs and contraband to the prison.

"ACT Corrective Services works closely with ACT Policing in support of drug and contraband interdiction measures, including providing assistance with the execution of search warrants at the AMC, and with the ongoing exchange of information/intelligence," she said.

In late August, a 19-year-old man from Kambah was charged with taking two mobile phones, two mobile phone chargers, 10 grams of cannabis, one gram of crystal meth and half a gram of cocaine into the AMC.

According to a statement issued by ACT Policing, the man was alleged to have thrown the items over the prison fence before being noticed by guards and arrested by police officers. 

Mr Rattenbury said while all jurisdictions did what they could to prevent the entry of contraband into prisons, the issue remained an ongoing challenge.

"ACT Corrective Services has a range of both physical and intelligence-based measures in place to prevent contraband entering the AMC, however it is the case that both detainees and visitors will continue to endeavour to smuggle contraband into the AMC," he said.