Prison operator stays silent on drugs in facility

THE operators of Junee Correctional Centre have gone to ground over claims drug use is rife throughout the facility.

Revelations from a former prisoner during an inquest at the Wagga Coroner’s Court claimed the use of illegal drugs such as oxycontin, heroin, marijuana and speed was common, especially on weekends. 

Anthony James Van Rysewyk, an inmate at the facility, was found dead as a result of a heroin overdose on May 8, 2011, but could have died overnight. 

A spokesman from GEO Australia, which manages the privately operated prison, refused to comment on the matter until the conclusion of the inquest. 

But Brett Collins, the co-ordinator of Justice Action (JA), a community-based group which targets abuse of authority, said the stark reality was that drugs were central to the prison experience.

“It’s happening at all prisons across the state,” Mr Collins said. 

“You have a smorgasbord of drugs in prison ... you have an extremely high density of drug users.

“You can’t seal a prison, there’s no such thing as a drug-free prison, they don’t exist. 

“(Prison officers) enforce rules which create a drug-free prison and they are the ones who are constantly caught corruptly channeling drugs inside. 

“It’s easy to blame visitors, you’re taking the heat off prison officers.” 

Mr Collins said heroin and speed were “drugs of choice” given they only last in the blood for a short time and were easy to secrete. 

He highlighted an ICAC inquiry in Windsor earlier this year that revealed corrupt conduct by a prison officer at the Long Bay Correctional Centre. 

A statement on the JA website said the group recognises “all deaths in custody, under any circumstance, as the ultimate failure in the duty of care that is incumbent upon police and corrective services to fulfil”. 

It is currently in negotiations with the shadow spokesperson for justice for a public inquiry into a number of recent deaths in custody, including that of a woman from a suspected drug overdose at the Dillwynia Correctional Centre in Sydney earlier this year.

Two former jail inmates and witnesses at the Wagga inquest, who can’t be named for legal reasons, told the court a drug prescribed to get inmates off heroin, known as BEWP or buprenorphine, was often smuggled out of the medical clinic and traded within the prison, along with used syringes. 

One also questioned checks on visitors to the jail, telling the court contact was at the discretion of officers. 

Inmates are strip searched, but not cavity searched after visits. 

A spokeswoman for the NSW Attorney General and Minister for Justice Greg Smith also refused to comment ahead of the coroner’s recommendation.

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