Correctional Services, Prison Security

14 Mar 2007 questionsarchive

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Correctional Services a question about prison security.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: In the light of an increasing number of outbreaks of contraband incidents within our prisons, in The Advertiser of Monday this week the minister stated that the government is winning the battle against contraband and is keeping a tight rein on illegal activity. The Liberal opposition has received several complaints from people who operate within the prison system in relation to searches and visitors. We are advised that random searches no longer occur unless there is a particular security incident.

We can confirm that there was, in fact, contraband discovered in the highest security division at Yatala and we are also advised that people who enter our gaols—including tradesmen, teachers, justices, church groups and civil liberties representatives—are no longer being escorted within the prisons due to staff shortages. Can the minister advise whether it was a ministerial direction that changed the policy in relation to no longer accompanying visitors to our prisons, and has the minister issued a directive that random searches will no longer take place within prisons?

The Hon. CARMEL ZOLLO (Minister for Correctional Services): I thank the honourable member for her question in relation to the issuing of security passes in our prisons—I assume it is that to which the honourable member is alluding. I can assure the chamber that the department has completed a comprehensive review, the most comprehensive ever, for the issuing of passes within our prisons and will soon introduce a new system which is electronically monitored and which requires anyone who regularly enters a prison—including maintenance workers—to have a security clearance prior to a pass being issued. The PSA was fully consulted on this new policy and procedure, and it is ridiculous that we now have articles pretending ignorance of these developments.

This government will always ensure that we have a safe and secure system within our prisons, and we have strengthened that commitment. The Hon. Paul Holloway and I announced in, I think, December last year that we now have a strengthened integrated investigation section in relation to intelligence, and we have seen a greater collaboration between SAPOL and the prison system. It is a challenge; people will always try to bring in contraband to our prisons, and it is important that we are able to stop that contraband— indeed, we regularly do so. I will certainly not apologise for there being good investigation and collaboration between SA Police and corrections in this state.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I have a supplementary question. Is the minister therefore stating that random searches are no longer operating in our prisons?

The Hon. CARMEL ZOLLO: We have both random and targeted searches in our prisons; it is a normal part of intelligence within our prisons. At all times, of course, the cooperation of our staff is sought to undertake these searches.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I have a further supplementary question. Will the minister undertake to provide some statistical information in relation to both targeted and random searches within the prison system over the past five years?

The Hon. CARMEL ZOLLO: I cannot give the statistics regarding how many were undertaken in the past five years off the top of my head. Clearly, some of that information may be confidential. The success of targeting contraband depends on having an element of surprise, and we cannot go around advertising when we are likely to undertake a search or why.

That is the whole reason for having an intelligence unit and strengthening that unit. Nonetheless, I am happy to try to bring back some advice for the honourable member.

Wednesday 12 September 2007

In reply to Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (14 March).

The Hon. CARMEL ZOLLO: I am advised that 10 747 individual prison cell and common area searches were conducted during 2004-05 and 9994 in 2005-06. Up until the end of February 2007, 8980 cell and common area searches had been conducted.

These figures do not include routine pat or strip searches of prisoners as they move from one area of a prison to another, or when being escorted to court, medical appointments, transferred between institutions, or as required as part of the urinalysis procedure. No records are kept of these searches.