Report Extracts


Burnet Report:
External component of the evaluation of drug policies and services and their subsequent effects on prisoners and staff within the Alexander Maconochie Centre Final Report, April 2011

(Burnet Institute Report) at

These quantitative data on drug use histories accord with responses from interview participants. Prison staff and other service providers consistently reported that they believed that drug use issues were prevalent among the prison population, as was drug use at the AMC.

‘We’ve got probably 65%-70% of our prisoners are in here because of a drug related offence.’ (key informant) ‘We’ve got them incarcerated but we’re still not reducing their usage.’ (key informant)

‘There’s an enormous amount of drugs in this jail. I’m absolutely blown away.’ (key informant)

The inevitability of drugs entering the AMC routinely underpinned notions of nterdiction interrupting rather than preventing drugs entering the prison.

‘It’s a game of chess. They will try and find a way to introduce it and we will be on top of it. They’ll find another creative way. It is a game. One minute

we’ll be on top of the introduction and they’ll find some other way. Recently something as simple as lobbing a tennis ball over with a supply in the tennis ball over the actual perimeter. So we will now go to the next level of having a heightened level of perimeter security.’ (key informant) (p. 124).

[p.125] ‘I’ve had several offers of marijuana in here and the possibility of heavier drugs even but that’s sort of a bit more quieter because you don’t see much of the heavier stuff getting around.’ (key informant)

‘We’ve had whistleblowers to tell us that there are syringes and drugs in places… We’re advised that marijuana can come over the fence in tennis balls on to the oval.’ (key informant)

Trafficking of drugs by prison staff was considered to be an issue by many interviewees.

‘If you’ve got plenty of money I’m sure you can find a guard and give them $5-10 grand to and they’ll bring you the gear.’ (key informant)

‘There was staff bringing it in which I saw which is quite common in all the jails

I’ve been told as well.’ (key informant)

‘One of the biggest challenges is to, 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]. I believe we have some of that.’ (key informant)

‘There are guards bringing in drugs.’ (key informant)

Drugs entering the AMC and the subsequent availability of drugs to AMC inmates are supported by responses to the Inmate Health Survey. Table 11 shows responses on a range of in-prison drug use questions. More than half of respondents that reported lifetime use of cannabis reported using cannabis in prison and more than one-quarter of lifetime users reported speed use in prison.

Of those that reported lifetime injecting drug use, nearly one third reported ever injecting drugs at the AMC and approximately one quarter reported injecting drugs in the past four weeks and that the last time they injected drugs was in prison. Of those that reported injecting in the past four weeks, approximately equal proportions reported injecting less than weekly or weekly or more often.

There was no consensus among survey respondents about the availability of drugs at the AMC, with slightly less than half of respondents describing drugs as “easy” or “very easy” to obtain at the AMC (Table 11). (pp. 124-25)

Consultations with prisoners:

Despite these conflicts, among prisoners, ex-prisoners and community-based service providers there was overwhelming support for an NSP to be implemented at the AMC. Health staff from the prison also strongly supported the introduction of NSP services.

‘There should be a needle exchange program there definitely. Some of the contraptions I’ve seen in there used as syringes, they’re unreal you know.

They’re used by so many people you know.’ (key informant)

‘They should have a needle exchange program.’ (key informant)

‘What we need to talk about is this going to be the prison where we’re going to trial an NSP. Why not, everyone is behind it, where’s the problem? It’s with the Unions. It’s not with the Health Minister, it’s not with the workers, it’s not [p. 47] with anybody else but the unions here and that’s a really great example of you’re in this place where you can do it and it’s not being done because there

hasn’t necessarily been the analysis of the issue yet.’ (key informant) Custodial officers were, for the most part, strongly opposed to the notion of a

prison-based NSP. Many cited a lack of consultation and dialogue as partly influencing their opposition. (pp. 146-47).

Report for the ACT Government into implementation of a Needle and Syringe Program at the Alexander Maconochie Centre by Michael Moore CEO, Public Health Association of Australia

(Moore Report) (July 19 2011)

Approximately one third of prisoners reported having injected in prison and a quarter to having done so in the previous four weeks (Burnett 2011 pg 126). These statistics are a matter of significant concern regarding the spread of infection in the prison context. The reality is that an unregulated needle and syringe program does operate in the prison at the moment. The problem is that it is controlled by prisoners rather than health workers. The priority for those running the illicit NSP is therefore associated with financial and power advantage of the illegal commodity. Needles and syringes are traded and used in the least safe manner with regard to the spread of disease, the nature of the equipment and the power of those controlling the commodity. (p. 10).

In addition to the disposal mechanisms outlined in each of the models, secure syringe disposal bins (that prevent the extraction of used injecting equipment) should also be placed in discreet locations of the prison in areas accessible to prisoners who may be using injecting equipment either provided by the NSP, or old injecting equipment that has previously been smuggled into the prison.

These additional measures would further reduce the potential for accidental needle-stick injury to both prisoners and staff, and given the current availability of illicit (smuggled) injecting equipment in the AMC, would be worthy of consideration even without the implementation of an NSP. (p. 46).

Consultations with prisoners:

– AIVL and CAHMA conducted two further Focus Group Workshops with ex-prisoners and injecting drug users to provide further input to PHAA re barriers/challenges and possible models:

a) a generic focus group workshop for male and female ex-prisoners & illicit drug users (Mon 30 May); and

b) an additional focus group workshop specifically for Indigenous ex-prisoners and illicit drug users (Tues 31 May). (p. 61).

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