What results are being achieved from the Government’s commitment to reduce the level of drug use in our prisons?
I am very pleased to advise that the number of prisoners testing positive for drugs from random drug-testing has fallen to an all-time low. In 1998, when drug testing was introduced, 34 percent of randomly tested prisoners returned positive results. However, for the financial year to date, only 6 percent of prisoners have returned positive results. This drop is a direct result of legislation passed by this House, and of the vigilance of corrections staff. We have brought in new laws to increase the search powers of corrections officers, and to introduce new offences for contraband. We have also enabled the department to put in cellphone jamming and to monitor prisoners’ phone calls. As a result of all these measures we are now seeing some great results.
What else is the Department of Corrections doing to address the drug and alcohol dependencies of prisoners?
About two-thirds of prisoners enter jail in New Zealand with drug and alcohol problems, so stopping drugs entering prison is only one element of the department’s strategy. The Department of Corrections is also focused on helping prisoners to take ownership of their problems and break their dependency on alcohol and drugs. The department is doubling the number of prisoners who are able to receive drug and alcohol treatment to 1,000 by the end of this year. I have opened two new drug treatment units in Otago and Auckland, and a third unit will open in Whanganui Prison this year. This clearly demonstrates our commitment to rehabilitation.