Correctional officials deny claims of inmate opiod addiction at Port Augusta Prison

SA Prison Health officials claim inmates at Port Augusta Prison are leaving incarceration in a worsened state of health.
SA Prison Health officials claim inmates at Port Augusta Prison are leaving incarceration in a worsened state of health.

Correctional Service officials have refuted claims made by SA Health that Port Augusta Prison is one of the worst places for inmates developing a dependency to opioids during their incarceration.

SA Prison Health Services director Alan Scarborough and medical director Dr Dan Pronk penned a letter to Correctional Services deputy chief executive Jackie Bray in August, outlining concerns over a jailhouse flood of illicit drugs.

The sternly worded letter included allegations about urine tests showing regular use of the opiod Buprenorphine, which is taken as a replacement in the treatment of heroin and methadone dependence.

"Given the low rates of prescription of Buprenorphine within the South Australian prison (dependency treatment) program, it can only be assumed that the significant apparent illicit volume of the drug is coming from outside the prisons," it states.

"The current situation raises the potential for prisoners to deteriorate into a worsening state of health during their incarceration than they were in prior to incarceration."

A spokesperson for the Department of Correctional Services said there is no evidence to support these claims.

"Prisoners across the system present with multiple health issues upon admission, with most leaving in a better state of health than when they entered," the spokesperson said.

"No jurisdiction can boast a prison system 100 per cent free from contraband. DCS is committed to deterring this illicit activity through a number of methods including internal intelligence, the Dog Squad, stringent access control and strong intelligence sharing between Corrections and SAPOL."

The Department said in 2019 all Passive Alert Drug Detection (PADD) dogs in the Dog Squad were trained to specifically detect Buprenorphine.

"Along with their handlers, the dogs conduct Passive Alert Drug Detection (PADD) searches on visitors and prisoners as well as searches of cells and dormitories, prison areas (such as yards and workshops) and also vehicles entering prisons and in prison car parks," the spokesperson said.

"Screening of all incoming prisoner mail is also a heavy focus for the Dog Squad in ensuring contraband does not enter our prisons.

"The Dog Squad also patrol external perimeters of DCS prisons with PADD and General Purpose dogs in an attempt to detect and deter persons entering restricted areas with a view to introducing contraband."

"The department will continue to work closely and collaboratively with the South Australian Prison Health Services to further target any issues."