This article originally appeared on VICE AU.
Ex-inmates in Queensland are intentionally breaching their parole conditions so they can return to jail with drugs hidden inside their bodies, according to a union representing the state's prison officers. Michael Thomas from the Together Union said the practice of people strategically smuggling contraband into prisons was so prolific and lucrative that it was "almost an industry", the ABC reports.
"We know there's a big problem with people who have breached their parole, and they are having to do a stint in prison. People know the penalty for breaching parole is to do a further stint inside—and it can be quite lucrative to take that risk,” Michael said. "In some cases, people are stood over and pressured to take that risk to bring drugs back into the system, effectively inside them."
Prison officers are fighting to crack down on the smuggling method and stem the flow of drugs into prisons—but intense overcrowding and a lack of sufficient resources in Queensland’s jail system makes it hard for authorities to effectively identify and weed out offenders. While full body scanners are used at prisons in Victoria and New South Wales, Queensland facilities rely on strip searches to find any illicit materials that might be located on or inside the bodies of inmates.
''It's not as humiliating for a prisoner to experience a body scan and it's going to be a more effective way of identifying if there is a forbidden substance inside of a person,'' said Helen Blaber, from Prisoner Legal Service Queensland. ''I suspect body scanning is one of the priorities that are not being met, but there are many priorities not being met, and are being exacerbated by overcrowding in Queensland prisons.''
Even if guards perform a strip search and find an inmate is thought to have hidden something internally, only doctors are allowed to conduct body searches under the Corrective Services Act—adding another layer of difficulty when it comes to clamping down on drug smuggling.
"You can see evidence that they've secreted evidence within them," said Michael. "The problem is, prison officers are prohibited by law from bringing that material out—it's prohibited by law." And while ideally the inmate would be isolated until a doctor could perform the body search, Michael points out that ''all the spare spots in the jail are used to house the 150 per cent over-capacity prisoners that we have."
Michael claimed the prisoners were leaving prison on parole and ingesting or inserting drugs to sell or distribute when upon re-entry. But this is just one way that illicit substances are entering the prison system. Dealers and users alike are constantly trying to get contraband into jails via visitors, mail packages, and—somewhat less successfully—drone drops. The idea that inmates have effectively become their own mules is just one more thing for the authorities to worry about.
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