16 September 2020

Tania Maxwell MP has asked the Minister for Corrections to indicate whether the learnings from the COVID period in relation to the smuggling of contraband into Victorian prisons will translate into more-permanent changes to policies and processes.

Her question follows a significant reduction in the frequency of positive drug tests and in the levels of drugs and other contraband entering prisons amid the COVID-19 restrictions, according to the latest official ‘Drugs in Prison’ reports for Victoria.

Statistics from March to May 2020 point to very noticeable falls in the percentages of positive results among random drug tests – from 5.41% to 3.21%, the lowest percentage at any time in the last two years. There has also been a drop in positive targeted tests – now
at 6.21%, the lowest ever recorded.

Ms Maxwell said that, although it would be preferable that these figures be closer to zero, these reductions are heartening. The drops in these figures come during a period of online, virtual visits rather than direct, face-to-face contact.

Ms Maxwell said there was now a real opportunity, including before COVID restrictions are fully lifted, to examine policies and processes to make it more difficult for contraband to enter prisons.

Quotes attributable to Tania Maxwell

 “Smuggling of contraband, including drugs, into prisons has drastically reduced during the pandemic, and there has also been a welcome fall in positive random drug tests among inmates.”

 “It is overwhelmingly in the community’s best interests to reduce the smuggling of contraband into prisons.  Ultimately, it will also improve the overall, long-term health and wellbeing of the prisoners themselves, and improves the prospects of drug rehabilitation during incarceration.”