Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Drugs in the AMC.

johnboy 2 April 2011 28

The Canberra Times has the not particularly surprising news that a secret report into the Alexander Maconochie Centre (aka “the prison”) lists prison staff as the main conduit of drugs to prisoners:

Four ”key informants” are quoted on the subject of guards trafficking drugs into the jail.

”Because we have so many staff coming and going every day in this correctional centre, one of the biggest challenges is to guard against trafficking (by staff),” one of the informants, believed to a staff member, told investigators.

”I believe we have some of that.”

Another witness was more blunt.

”There are guards bringing in drugs,” they told the institute’s researchers.

Considering bent guards are the major source of drugs in every other prison in the world this should not shock anyone.

Once one factors in the chronic ongoing incompetence of ACT Corrections it would frankly be shocking if this was not the case.

So next time you hear about drug busts at the prison bear in mind it’s as likely corrupt guards cutting down the competition as it is people doing their jobs well.


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28 Responses to Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Drugs in the AMC.
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James_Ryan James_Ryan 7:16 pm 07 Apr 11

Mental Health Worker said :

NDRI and NDARC would have been far better choices.

Hey MHW. Wasn’t the Head of NDARC one of the independent expert advisors on the evaluation oversight group? Given that person’s endorsement of the Burnet Report it appears that one of you is wrong about the quality of the report. I reckon it’s you.

James_Ryan James_Ryan 6:45 pm 06 Apr 11

Mental Health Worker said :

James_Ryan – someone else speculates that the Burnet Institute asked loaded questions. It seems you have taken a leaf out of the book of loaded questions. I cannot answer any of your questions because they are so loaded.

You do seem to implicitly acknowledge shortcomings in the report, and you assume that is anyone’s fault except the Burnet Institute. That’s very generous of you. So generous as to be suspicious. Ultimately it doesn’t matter – their name is on the report, so it’s their reputation on the line.

I can only conclude that you have read a different report from the one I read, or you have no experience in critically reviewing social or health research papers.

THE END.

MHW

Just because you find the answers inconvenient doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the questions. That you refuse to answer them reflects on you MHW, not the questions.

There was another I wanted to put to you.

You suggested NDARC would have been a better evaluator. You must hold that organisation and its leadership in high esteem. Fair enough too. No argument with that. I know you didn’t want to post your cv here, but would you agree that the learned woman I refer to would be better qualified than you to review the Burnet Report?

Mental Health Worker Mental Health Worker 4:09 am 06 Apr 11

James_Ryan – someone else speculates that the Burnet Institute asked loaded questions. It seems you have taken a leaf out of the book of loaded questions. I cannot answer any of your questions because they are so loaded.

You do seem to implicitly acknowledge shortcomings in the report, and you assume that is anyone’s fault except the Burnet Institute. That’s very generous of you. So generous as to be suspicious. Ultimately it doesn’t matter – their name is on the report, so it’s their reputation on the line.

I can only conclude that you have read a different report from the one I read, or you have no experience in critically reviewing social or health research papers.

THE END.

MHW

Skidbladnir Skidbladnir 11:09 am 05 Apr 11

Sure, the logististics of getting something undiscovered to your intended target in the prison system aren’t kind, but given enough analysis, determination and proedural refinement, some kind of system could eventually be derived.
Ideally you’d facilitate an open communication channel first though.

(But the simplest explanation will almost likely be ‘they abused our weaknessesand took as little risk as possible until discovery’ )

johnboy johnboy 10:27 am 05 Apr 11

Yeah the inmates are desperate, but those supposedly throwing the drugs aren’t in fact they’re giving drugs away.

And they can’t be found with a properly defined perimeter, some cameras, and a very cheap motion sensor?

Skidbladnir Skidbladnir 10:26 am 05 Apr 11

johnboy said :

I mean really, who pings valuable drugs onto the ground where *anyone* could find them?

The same kind of people with nothing to lose and are deperate enough for a drink they’ll drink something that tastes like bile?
(A bottle of juice, some sugar, and some vegemite is also an option)

However the stuff realy does smell vile, if you’re not incarcerated I see no reason to bother drinking it)

johnboy johnboy 9:58 am 05 Apr 11

My personal thinking is the tennis ball story is a myth put about by corrupt guards to take the heat off themselves.

I mean really, who pings valuable drugs onto the ground where *anyone* could find them?

Skidbladnir Skidbladnir 9:49 am 05 Apr 11

georgesgenitals said :

Is it just me, or are people making the assumption that the only way drugs get into prisons is being carried through security checkpoints by humans?

Slingshots, drugs in a tennis ball, flyover by remote drone with payload, etc.

Actually, considering there’s an RC model club less than 1km away, you’d hope there were procedures in place for occasional flyovers of the latter

georgesgenitals georgesgenitals 6:44 am 05 Apr 11

Is it just me, or are people making the assumption that the only way drugs get into prisons is being carried through security checkpoints by humans?

James_Ryan James_Ryan 9:43 pm 04 Apr 11

MHW, do you think it’s reasonable to critisise an evaluator for the quality of quantitative data that they are provided but have no opportunity to gather for themselves?

Do you think it’s reasonable to critisise an evaluator for not answering questions that were not within scope and for which they were not provided data?

Did AIHW, NDRI, NDARC, WA PI tender for the evaluation role?

Would you think it reasonable that delegates and representatives were suspicious of the length of notice of meetings if that notice extended to, say, months rather than weeks? What if the meetings were advised at the beginning of 2010? Do you think they’d have cause to grizzle about how long they had to get their shit in one sock?

Proboscus Proboscus 9:52 am 04 Apr 11

Of course the crooks are going to be dishonest and say how the guards are bringing drugs in – why on Earth would they draw attention their normal and successful avenues of drug delivery and trafficking?

The report is rubbish. The criminals are never going to be a reliable source of information when they are paid to be questioned by an interviewer. The questions were loaded and the crooks gave the answers the interviewers wanted.

And to this date, NO prison guard has been charged with supplying and trafficking drugs at the jail. Some people may have their price but I doubt that a guard would risk a jail sentence and losing a job that pays 85K plus for five or ten grand.

That’s not to say there won’t be one or two idiots in the future – there always is.

Beau Locks Beau Locks 8:46 am 04 Apr 11

Interesting comments here folks. MHW, re the quality or otherwise of the report in question, I must admit to not having read it, but I did get a first hand insight into the work of the researchers during the report’s production. I’m not a stranger to social research, and I thought their approach and professionalism was absolutely first rate.

Regarding some of the usual knuckle dragging responses to anything to do with AMC, I’d like to make a few points, which I’ll preface by noting that, Canberra being Canberra, I have some knowledge of the goings on at AMC.

Firstly, I am not aware that counsellors and advocates are bringing drugs in. They may, but I’m not aware of it. I am, however, aware that visitors and corrective service officers are. (And no, obamabinladen, I don’t have ‘proof’. A bit like I can’t personally prove why the sky is blue. Nor am I interested in getting into a mud slinging match about how drugs get into correctional facilities. They just do.)

Machines and dogs don’t prevent drugs getting into prisons. They haven’t anywhere else in the world, and they don’t here. Further, many of the drugs that are used in jails are prescription drugs (including opiates or synthetic opiates). These don’t get picked up by the dogs or machines. In some cases they don’t smell or leave trace elements, but either way these substances are ‘legal’, even within a correctional facility, where they may be prescribed. Even where they did, there are all sorts of people in and out of prisons, many of whom are quite legally prescribed these drugs

Regardless of their origin, the question of how drugs are being used in jails is an important one, especially if people are injecting them, which, of course, they are. And especially if people are using unsafe injecting equipment.

And before the inevitable backlash of ‘just let them rot in there’, ‘throw away the key’ and all the other knee jerk, ill conceived and bigoted comments erupt, it’s worth considering a few things. Firstly, people in jails have families. ‘Normal’, ‘hard working’ Australian families, even. The US option of locking up every other mug is just expensive and breeds further social problems that affect everyone and cost shitloads of money to deal with. Secondly, people exit jails and go on to interact with the rest of the population, including passing on blood borne infections to other people that don’t have any interaction with the justice system (i.e. ‘normal’ and ‘hard working’ Australians). Either way, it costs heaps of money to treat people with diseases such as HIV and HEP C. (It it, of course, cheaper to structure things such that we have fewer people in corrections facilities in the first place, but that’s another argument for another day.)

At the end of the day this issue is as much as anything about getting a needle and syringe program into AMC, and the reluctance of the guards, whose opposition in the face of the overwhelming evidence form overseas is shows that their response is emotive rather than logical.

I generally don’t have a lot of good to say about the ACT Government, but good on Katy and her charges in the bureaucracy for commissioning this report, and I hope they have the good sense to act on its recommendations.

Mental Health Worker Mental Health Worker 7:53 am 04 Apr 11

To James_Ryan (presumably a different one to the one who commissioned the Hamburger Report) – I cannot post my CV on Riot Act, so you’re just going to have accept that I am apparently better qualified than you to review the Burnet Institute’s report.

You clearly have an axe to grind about the other report, as you keep digressing to discussing it. It may or may not be crap, I’m not discussing it here, and this isn’t a competition about which report is better, it’s about whether the Burnet Institute’s report is of adequate quality. People with axes to grind often can’t be objective.

My objective and expert reading of the Burnet Institute’s report is that it is naive, its qualitative data is of dubious quality, and its quantitative data is of dubious quality. Even including a vague quote like ”If you’ve got plenty of money I’m sure you can find a guard and give them five or 10 grand and they’ll bring in the gear” is just silly. This is a hypothetical statement which shows only that that person believes everyone has a price – they may be right, they may be wrong, but a statement like that adds nothing but headlines to a report like this.

I have no axe to grind. I support a needle exchange program in principle, but I believe it is unworkable in the AMC because of its design. I know that staff both civilian and custodial are quite possible bringing drugs in, because they are human and everyone has a price, or a tipping point in response to blackmail, (I have even pointed out that one has been arrested and charged), and even perhaps of handing out injecting equipment, or turning a blind eye to its theft because they want to , but the Burnet Institute report is guilty of hyperbole.

I am also aware of a whole host of issues that the report did not touch on, and which I cannot put into the public domain because of how they relate to security. But here’s one – misuse of prescription medication prescribed within the prison. Since prescription opiates are now widely used outsde prison instead of heroin, isn’t it likely they are so used in prison? Is the possibility of over-prescription mentioned in the report? Did the health professions get an easy ride in this report?

Searching the Institute’s website for publications about prisons finds very few. NDRI and NDARC would have been far better choices. Or any number of other university departments experienced in conducting research in prison. Or AIC or AIHW. Or the WA prisons Inspectorate.

By the way I know that CPSU reps were sometimes given virtually no notice of meetings, and the workplace delegates are shift-workers and need notice to be able to re-work their shifts so as to attend. They were very suspicious of the motivations for the lack of notice. CPSU is not only concerned about a needle program, they are also concerned about the slander of their members and their profession, which the report appears to engage in.

MHW

cleo cleo 1:36 am 04 Apr 11

I heard this months ago, the gov. wouldn’t suggest that needles be given out for nothing duuurrrrrr!
Where are the sniffer dogs???
Just a little slow here in the Bush!

James_Ryan James_Ryan 1:26 pm 03 Apr 11

Mental Health Worker said :

nooo—ooohhh. This thread is about the Burnet Institute’s report, and that’s what I am describing. It is a whole collection of unsubstantiated and unverifiable claims by unidentified sources, some of whom may have axes to grind and were delivered a nice anonymous way to do so. It is a piece of qualititative research which throws in some numbers to try to increase its credibility, many of which numbers the authors don’t even seem to understand.

The Burnet Institute may have a great reputation, but research in prisons is very different from other environments and they seem to have been working outside their skill-set.

You’re making stuff up, my friend. If you knew as much as you’re claiming to know, you’d be aware that the Burnet Institute has an extensive and credible track record in corrections based health research.

Furthermore, an oversight group was created to direct the evaluation process from the beginning, and that oversight group was co-chaired by the deputy chief executives of both jacs and health, and was composed of individuals invited by government. Those individuals included two key experts with advanced credentials in evaluation, social research, drugs and health, and the corrections environment.

Compare that with the dodgy Hamburger Report written by a “consultant” handpicked by the Executive Director of Corrective Services with absolutely zero independent oversight and absolutely zero transparency of process.

And what other independent Australian research organisation would be better qualified to conduct this research than the Burnet Institute? NDRI would probably be equally well placed, but with Burnet at the wheel it would take a fair whack of ignorance to suggest they’re not extremely well qualified to do the work.

The poor quality of the work is probably the reason it hasn’t been released.

Wrong again. Government accepted the report and its high quality was acknowledged. The word is that the government is determined to respond to the Burnet Report, the Hamburger Report, and the review of corrections health with a consolidated response. Given that the Hamburger Report was set up to muddy the waters in the first place, that will take some careful craftmanship.

The CPSU is ropeable about it, and rightly so.

Of course the CPSU is ropeable about it. The CPSU has nothing to gain from the realities being exposed. The CPSU is interested in power, its membership and the bigger picture. The bigger picture is, of course, the politics and power weilded by trade unions in every corrections facility across the country.

I can tell you for a fact that the CPSU is completely disinterested in the vast majority of the report. They didn’t even bother turning up to all relevant forums and meetings. From the start all they’ve cared about is the risk that this evaluation will lead to a needle and syringe program. And therein lies the big risk for prisons unions. Not because a needle and syringe program will be dangerous, because it won’t and all the international evidence supports that fact, but because the prisons unions have backed themselves into a corner about the issue with Charlton Heston statements about “over our dead bodies” and “from our cold head hands”.

The CPSU is not shocked that the report alleges staff involvement in drug supply, because individuals within the CPSU were well and truely aware of such allegations long before the Burnet Institute ever got involved.

Diggety Diggety 11:14 am 03 Apr 11

Mental Health Worker said :

collection of unsubstantiated and unverifiable claims by unidentified sources, some of whom may have axes to grind and were delivered a nice anonymous way to do so.

MHW

How do you know they have an axe to grind if they are unidentified?

Tooks Tooks 11:11 am 03 Apr 11

Tooks said :

obamabinladen said :

dvaey said :

So, the guards are searching visitors lockers to find drugs.. to take any heat off their own dealing? Sounds like gangs dobbing other gangs in to take the heat off their own illegal dealings.

Why dont they invest in one of those machines which blows a gust of air past you and senses particles in the air? Force everyone to go through that machine, guards and all, and see how long the problem lasts.

Can you provide proof that the guards at AMC are smuggling drugs to detainees? If you can name and shame fair enough and I apologise in advance, however this is serious slander and you need to be silenced!

Go and read the front page of yesterday’s Canberra Times.

Before anyone points out my stupidity, I just realised the original post is about that front page CT article. *Puts on dunces hat*

The_Bulldog The_Bulldog 8:23 am 03 Apr 11

Funny – a couple of guards I have known for some years who work/ed out there have stated it’s the counsellors and advocated who are largely responsible for bringing drugs in. In fact – I would find it both troubling and surprising if the Burnett report failed to mention the detected actions of these people, one instance of which I had confirmed through the one or two degrees which separates us all in Canberra.

Despite the comments regarding the accuracy and impressiveness of the Burnett report – let’s not forget that many of the people providing this information are criminals, and have no vested interest in having their supply of drugs stopped OR the success and accuracy of the report.

Tooks Tooks 8:05 am 03 Apr 11

Mental Health Worker said :

I have read the report, in full, and it is rubbish. What chance that prisoners want to put the heat on staff to divert attention from their other means of getting drugs into the prison?

Okay, you think it’s rubbish. What do you base that on?

Tooks Tooks 8:02 am 03 Apr 11

obamabinladen said :

dvaey said :

So, the guards are searching visitors lockers to find drugs.. to take any heat off their own dealing? Sounds like gangs dobbing other gangs in to take the heat off their own illegal dealings.

Why dont they invest in one of those machines which blows a gust of air past you and senses particles in the air? Force everyone to go through that machine, guards and all, and see how long the problem lasts.

Can you provide proof that the guards at AMC are smuggling drugs to detainees? If you can name and shame fair enough and I apologise in advance, however this is serious slander and you need to be silenced!

Go and read the front page of yesterday’s Canberra Times.

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