- State-wide search operation held today for resumption of social visits
- Officers and dogs search visitors, vehicles and belongings for contraband
- Tougher penalties now in place to help keep drugs out of custodial estate
A drug and contraband search blitz was carried out today across Western Australia's custodial facilities as social visits resumed across the WA custodial estate.
The lifting today of the three-month COVID-19 suspension of face-to-face visits came with hefty new penalties in effect for attempts to smuggle illicit drugs and other contraband into prisons.
Operation Revorsio was conducted this morning at the visitor car park for Hakea Prison and the adjoining Melaleuca Women's Prison, as part of a State-wide drug search campaign.
Special Operations Group officers, Drug Detection Unit officers and detector dogs, and prison security officers took part in the operation. They were joined by WA Police Force officers.
Officers staffed vehicle checkpoints and conducted dog-assisted searches of vehicles and belongings, as well as carrying out personal searches of visitors.
A hand-held X-ray device capable of detecting contraband concealed in such places as car doors, tyres and behind steel panels was also trialled at Hakea.
Under tough new penalties introduced by the McGowan Government, visitors trying to bring in contraband such as drugs could face a $12,000 fine and 18 months in prison.
Refusing a search can incur a $6,000 fine and anyone caught loitering around a prison or concealing an article for a prisoner could be fined up to $6,000 and face 12 months' prison.
Testing of prisoners during the absence of social visits has shown a fall in illicit drug use in the custodial estate.
State-wide randomised drug prevalence testing of 1,077 prisoners returned nine positive samples in May, compared with 35 positive samples from 1,073 prisoners in February.
During the suspension of visits, the Drug Detection Unit was diverted to focus on searching prison grounds, cells, common areas and prisoners' mail.
About 400 searches were conducted in the past three months across the State using drug detection dogs. They resulted in 14 seizures of prohibited substances and narcotics-related paraphernalia.
The unit is at full strength following the graduation earlier this month of four new officers and their detector dogs.
That effort will be reinforced by the addition of more electronic trace devices in prisons, expected in the coming months.
Comments attributed to Corrective Services Minister Francis Logan:
"The return of social visits is welcome news for the family and friends of prisoners, but there will be zero tolerance for visitors who attempt to bring in contraband.
"Today's operation was not a one-off. Visitor searches can happen across the State's prisons at any time and are part of relentless efforts to keep drugs out.
"This is the new normal. If you bring drugs to prisons, you will be caught.
"You could also face penalties that are six times higher than before and end up as a prisoner yourself."
Minister's office - 6552 6300