Prison service vigilant against drug abuse

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 May, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 May, 1998, 12:00am

I refer to the article headlined '80 per cent of prison drug tests positive', and your editorial 'Drugs in prison' (South China Morning Post, May 9). There is a need for the Correctional Services Department to put the facts in perspective.

In 1997, CSD did 209,321 screening tests on urine specimens from the prison population. These included tests on new admissions, routine random tests and targeted tests on vulnerable groups.

Amongst these, 2,017 specimens 'queried' by the screening tests were sent to the government laboratory for verification. Of these, 1,640 were confirmed drug positive.

It must be stressed that the majority of the confirmed positive specimens were collected from addicts on new admission. These have nothing to do with a drug problem in prisons.

Likewise, drugs seized within prison walls were predominantly seized from new admissions at reception centres. Of 60 cases last year, 55 occurred at reception centres. The seizures were made during admission searches or quarantine of cases suspected to have swallowed drugs before admission.

These cases have nothing to do with a drug problem in prisons but, rather, with efforts to stop drugs at the door of the penal system.

All drug seizures are reported to the police for investigation and court action.

Incidentally, your editorial suggested that, since family visits take place behind a glass screen, it is difficult for drugs to be passed to inmates through social contact; and therefore drugs are either thrown over prison walls or smuggled in through other channels. As a matter of fact, closed visits behind a glass screen take place only at the few maximum security prisons.

The risks are indeed different at the maximum security prisons and the other prisons where prisoners receive family visits in open conditions. And different risks are dealt with accordingly.

CSD has been waging an unrelenting fight against attempts to introduce drugs into prisons. We operate an elaborate system of prevention, of which, for obvious reasons, we do not want to divulge details. We adopt a proactive approach and our staff are always on the alert.

The fight is, however, endless. Your report of the latest alert at Stanley Prison, where the ICAC is now conducting an investigation, is but a typical example of our proactive and persevering fight against drugs.

KWOK LEUNG-MING for Commissioner of Correctional Services