Do visitors or corrupt staff bring in more prison contraband?

My very first experiences with witnessing a corrupt officer and a drug-smuggling visitor occurred around 1991 when I was first working as a correctional officer in Hillsborough County, Florida. As I would come to find out over the next 15 years, however, these were anything but isolated incidents.

While this topic receives a lot of debate from all sides, I can tell you that in my experience, both as a correctional officer and ultimately a prison inspector within the Florida prison system, not all personnel involved in corrections want to be involved in this discussion; there are certainly members of prison management as well as line officers who refuse to confront this problem and the truth about it. I can also tell you that from speaking with other investigators and correctional officers across the country, my involvement and research closely align with many other correctional agencies.

That said, after twelve years of prison investigations, and charging many visitors and prison staff with the introduction of contraband, here is my final answer to the never-ending question of who brings in more.

Someone needs to address it, so here I go.


Former prison guard admits role in major south Georgia drug trafficking conspiracy | USAO-SDGA

WAYCROSS, GA:  A former prison guard has admitted participating in a drug trafficking operation in south Georgia that included smuggling contraband to inmates.

Jessica Azaelae Burnett, a/k/a “The Madam,” 41, of Douglas, Ga., awaits sentencing after pleading guilty in U.S. District Court to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute and to Distribute Methamphetamine and Marijuana, said David H. Estes, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. Burnett’s guilty plea exposes her to a statutory penalty of up to 20 years in prison and substantial financial penalties, followed by a minimum of three years of supervised release after completion of any prison sentence. There is no parole in the federal system. As part of her plea agreement, Burnett also agrees to the forfeiture of five firearms seized during the investigation.

“Compromised corrections officers who breach prison security to provide contraband to inmates represent a significant danger not only to inmates and guards, but also to citizens outside prison walls who are within reach of unmonitored jail communications from smuggled cell phones,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Estes. “Jessica Burnett is rightfully being held accountable for violating her oath and endangering the community.”

Burnett, who was a sergeant and a senior guard with CoreCivic, the private prison company that operates Coffee County Correctional Facility, admitted working with other conspirators in distribution of methamphetamine and marijuana. Her role in the conspiracy included smuggling cell phones, drugs and other contraband into the state prison.

Burnett is one of 48 defendants indicted in Operation Sandy Bottom, the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation centered in the Sand Ridge neighborhood on the east side of Douglas, Ga., in an area known as “the bottoms.” The 57-count indictment, USA v. McMillan et. al,  was unsealed in January 2021 and alleges that the conspiracy, controlled by a subset of the violent Gangster Disciples street gang, used guns, violence and fear to control methamphetamine trafficking operations throughout the community and to enable contraband distribution inside Georgia prisons.

Altogether, the indictment charged the 48 defendants with a total of 129 felonies. With Burnett, 20 of the defendants await sentencing after pleading guilty; that includes another former prison guard: Idalis Qua Dazia Harrell, 24, of Douglas, a former guard at Coffee County Correctional Facility, who pled guilty to Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute and to Distribute Methamphetamine and Marijuana. The remaining defendants are awaiting trial, and are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The investigation began in 2018 when the Coffee County Sheriff’s Office Drug Unit, responding to complaints about the increasing level of violence and drug activity in the Sand Ridge neighborhood of Douglas, enlisted the assistance of the FBI and the Coastal Georgia Violent Gang Task Force. The indictment alleges that the conspiracy controlled multiple “trap houses” to store and distribute illegal drugs, primarily methamphetamine, and was coordinated by leaders of the Gangster Disciples who distributed drugs throughout Coffee, Bacon, Emanuel, Jeff Davis, Pierce and Wheeler counties, along with other parts of Georgia.

Investigators infiltrated the operation, intercepting multiple kilograms of drugs and nearly two dozen illegally possessed firearms, along with seven vehicles and more than $12,000 in cash identified as drug-trafficking proceeds.

Cell phones were used by some of the conspirators in Operation Sandy Bottom to facilitate drug trafficking throughout south Georgia from inside the state prison system.

“Not only did Burnett jeopardize the safety of staff and inmates at the Coffee County Correctional Facility, her actions fostered criminal activity inside and outside the facility,” said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “By violating her sworn oath she betrayed every honest, hard-working officer and she will be held accountable.”

“CoreCivic is committed to the safety and security of our employees, those in our care, and the communities we serve. The facility management team at Coffee Correctional Facility fully supported this investigation and appreciate the efforts of all agencies involved in preventing further introduction of contraband into correctional facilities,” said Vance Laughlin, CoreCivic’s Managing Director of Operations. 

Operation Sandy Bottom is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. It is being investigated by the FBI and the FBI Coastal Georgia Safe Streets Violent Gang Task Force; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the U.S. Marshals Service; the Coffee County Sheriff’s Office and the Coffee County Drug Unit; the Georgia Department of Corrections; the Jeff Davis County Sheriff’s Office; Pierce County Sheriff’s Office; Bacon County Sheriff’s Office; Emanuel County Sheriff’s Office; Lanier County Sheriff’s Office; the Blackshear Police Department; Nicholls Police Department; Douglas Police Department; Alma Police Department; the Glynn County Police Department; the Brunswick Police Department; the Swainsboro Police Department; and the Coffee County Department of Family and Children Services.

The cases is being prosecuted for the United States by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph McCool, Frank Pennington II and E. Greg Gilluly, with asset forfeitures coordinated by Xavier A. Cunningham, Section Chief of the Asset Forfeiture Recovery Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.


The Prison System Turkey’s Government Is Building to Jail Opponents

For years, he has been one of Turkey’s most outspoken human rights advocates, taking to the floor of parliament and social media with tales of abuse, torture, and midnight arrests at the hands of the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

But just after midnight on April 2, Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu, a member of parliament for the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), found that it was his turn. The police were waiting at his door, arrest warrant in hand.

“It started politely, but soon we found ourselves screaming as the police dragged our father away,” Faruk’s son, Salih Gergerlioglu, told me in April. “Suddenly he was gone, and we realized they hadn’t even let him put on his shoes.” Stripped of his parliamentary immunity in March, the 55-year-old lawmaker had been charged with “spreading terrorist propaganda” over a series of tweets from 2016 that criticized the government’s abandonment of peace talks with Kurdish insurgents.

“His real crime was broadcasting reports of rights abuses in parliament,” his son said. “He was one of the last who dared share the stories of victims of abuse in prisons, in police custody, and anywhere else.”

Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu, a Turkish member of parliament for the left-wing Peoples’ Democratic Party, is surrounded by MPs applauding and brandishing placards after he was dismissed following a vote at the Turkish parliament in Ankara on March 17. ADEM ALTAN/AFP via Getty Images

When he was taken in, Gergerlioglu joined a population of political prisoners in Turkey that has ballooned since the fateful night of July 15, 2016, when a failed military uprising against Erdogan killed hundreds, deeply traumatized Turkish society, and triggered a crackdown on opposition voices that continues at warp speed a half-decade later.

A massive expansion of the country’s prison network is abetting that crackdown and its accompanying human rights abuses.

Satellite imagery reveals construction on 131 prisons beginning between July 2016 and March 2021, with Turkish Ministry of Justice documents and press reports indicating nearly 100 additional facilities under consideration by Erdogan’s government.

The current rate of construction is more than double that in the four years before the failed coup—a time when mass arrests and political imprisonment in Turkey were already generating international alarm. Over that period, 64 prisons were observed under construction via satellite imagery.

Turkish Prison Development Since 2016

Photos of prison sites feature multiple individual prisons, with maximum security buildings identified by outer walls and rows of identical interior courtyards. Surrounding buildings are used for administration, staff lodging, and as minimum security prisons.

Toggle between images to show development between 2016-2017 and 2020-2021.

Prisons have grown in size as well as number. The floorspace of prisons built after 2016 increased by an average of 50 percent when compared to the previous period, with photos published by the government and local media showing three-story prison blocks replacing two-story designs popular before the coup, and a measurement of new and old facilities via satellite imagery showing prison layouts also sprawling over larger areas of land.

Turkey’s government has made no secret of its prison-building spree. Yet a closer look reveals the unprecedented scale of its efforts, which include sprawling facilities rising in remote corners of the country, a plan to build one of the largest prison complexes in the world, and a massive overall increase in the government’s capacity to punish dissent.

New prisons would allow Turkey’s government to further increase an inmate population that surged to nearly 300,000 in 2019 from 180,000 after the failed putsch. For the first time last year, Turkey’s incarceration rate ranked highest among all 47 member states of the Council of Europe.

A representative from Turkey’s justice ministry did not reply to multiple interview requests for this article. But Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul has publicly described Turkey’s new prisons as urgently needed to solve the problem of chronic overcrowding and help close scores of out-of-date facilities.

“Yet the mentality of this government is to immediately fill whatever prison it builds,” Gergerlioglu said in an interview before his own imprisonment. “And new prisons will do nothing to stop human right abuses occurring in jails while the justice ministry willingly turns a blind eye to them.”


In the aftermath of the 2016 coup attempt, Turkey announced a state of emergency, granting Erdogan sweeping powers to dismiss hundreds of thousands of public servants, ban public assemblies, and arrest opponents.

Less visibly, the emergency law helped demolish budgetary and zoning restrictions for prison construction, allowing Ankara to rapidly issue prison contracts to firms close to the government, as the veteran Turkish investigative journalist Cigdem Toker reported in a series of articles in 2017.

“The government says older prisons are simply being replaced. But tiny, antiquated facilities are being traded for mass prison complexes,” Toker said. “It comes across like a plan to imprison more people than ever previously considered.”

Featuring towering concrete walls, guard towers, and rows of narrow courtyards running along their interior, 75 of the post-coup facilities viewed by Foreign Policy were built as maximum-security facilities. The remaining 56 were built as minimum-security prisons.

The Sincan prison megacomplex, located outside the Turkish capital of Ankara, is where Gergerlioglu was imprisoned in April. Since 2016, the facility has surged in size. Its official capacity grew by roughly 60 percent, from 6,500 to around 10,900 inmates. The addition of four large, high-security compounds to the site puts Sincan’s overall size at 420 acres, half the area of New York’s Central Park.

Across Turkey’s rural interior, new complexes have risen up like small, self-contained cities, located far outside the nearest towns. On the outskirts of the central Anatolian city of Aksaray, population 423,000, a colossal, 519 million lira prison (equivalent to $145 million in 2017 terms, when the contract was issued ) with space for 6,000 inmates will soon replace a city jail of crumbling limestone walls. The new complex is “the largest single investment in the history of Aksaray,” a local official stated in 2017.

The Scale of One Prison in Aksaray

A colossal prison on the outskirts of Aksaray cost $145 million and will house 6,000 inmates.

Google satellite images

More prisons are on the way. Officials are planning a 15,000-inmate facility in the northwestern province of Bursa. The complex would be among the largest in the world, equal in capacity to Rikers Island, the largest contiguous prison complex in the United States, and outsized only by the biggest of internment complexes built for Muslim minorities in the Chinese province of Xinjiang.

So far, the post-coup building spree is set to increase the total capacity of Turkey’s prisons by more than 70 percent, to at least 320,000 from around 180,000 in 2016.

Construction has marked a huge outlay for a struggling economy and cash-strapped government.

Government sources place the cost at between 11.2 billion and 13 billion Turkish lira ($1.3 billion to $1.5 billion).

Erdogan himself, normally keen to champion controversial government megaprojects as key to Turkey’s development, has refrained from speaking directly about new prisons.This July, he pledged to convert a prison in Diyarbakir, the country’s largest Kurdish-majority city, into a cultural center, acknowledging the 10-acre facility’s long history of “oppression, torture, and inhuman treatment” amid the Turkish state’s 37-year war with Kurdish insurgents. He did not mention the colossal, 230-acre replacement complex his government has built on the city’s outskirts over the last decade, a prison with far improved facilities but with its own growing list of abuse allegations.

The bad optics may be clear to a man who was himself jailed for reading an Islamist poem in public in 1997 and who, despite his vast powers, still often casts himself as an outsider and victim of injustice.

A soldier in a watchtower stands guard at the courthouse in Sincan, outside Ankara, on April 7, during the verdict hearing in the trial of 497 defendants over the 2016 coup attempt. A Turkish court on April 7 sentenced four former soldiers to life in prison for their roles in a failed bid to oust the president.

A soldier in a watchtower stands guard at the courthouse in Sincan, outside Ankara, on April 7, during the verdict hearing in the trial of 497 defendants over the 2016 coup attempt. A Turkish court on April 7 sentenced four former soldiers to life in prison for their roles in a failed bid to oust the president. ADEM ALTAN/AFP via Getty Images

Erdogan and Gergerlioglu once walked the same path. They came from pious, working-class families and grew up disillusioned with the country’s secularist order.

Gergerlioglu became a doctor, but by the early 1990s he found himself preoccupied with activism against Turkey’s ban on headscarves in state institutions. He gained a national reputation for pious human rights work and backed Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) during its first hopeful decade in power.

Yet the AKP’s authoritarian turn made Gergerlioglu an unsparing critic. In 2018, he became a deputy for the Kurdish-rights-focused HDP, even as Erdogan jailed its leaders. Gergerlioglu’s stubborn commitment to human rights has made him a last hope for people like Zuleyha Koc, a middle-aged mother of two, who recently watched on her cellphone as the lawmaker spoke out against her husband’s own two-year imprisonment.

“Some days, it feels like we fell off the face of the Earth,” said Koc, who watched Gergerlioglu’s speech via an opposition-run YouTube channel. “This makes me feel like maybe we haven’t.” Her husband, Lutfi Koc, formerly worked as a dorm supervisor at a private school in a city on the Aegean coast. In 2019, the 46-year-old was sentenced to more than eight years in prison on charges of membership in a terrorist organization.

A confidential witness accused him of delivering lectures to students on behalf of Fethullah Gulen, a self-exiled preacher whose elusive faith network stands accused by Turkey’s government of masterminding the coup attempt.

The Gulen movement had once paved Erdogan’s road to power, leveraging a network of followers in the judiciary and police to dismantle the old secularist order, jail journalists, and intimidate critics. But a power struggle erupted between Erdogan and Gulen in 2013. Erdogan prevailed, and since 2016, the wrath of the state has fallen on hundreds of thousands of suspected members of what his government now brands a terrorist organization, known by the acronym FETO.

Leaving little room for ambiguity, state-controlled media widely refer to the prisons rising across Turkey as “FETO prisons,” while the acronym has become an indiscriminate moniker for any critic of Erdogan. Indeed, the term defines the lives of countless people like Lutfi Koc, who are either low-level Gulenists or ordinary citizens ensnared by a vengeful justice system.

“The last time I spoke to Lutfi, he said he had been beaten by guards during his transfer from one prison to the next,” Zuleyha Koc said. “He said a doctor was called when his eye started bleeding. But once the bleeding stopped, he says they started beating him again.”

International and local rights groups have catalogued tales of torture and abuse in prisons with skyrocketing frequency since the failed coup. They describe beatings by guards, violent threats, sexual assault, rape, and humiliating and repeated strip searches of female inmates.

“In 2019 we received quite a few reports of torture and abuse,” Berivan Korkut of the Civil Society in the Penal System Association, a Turkish prison reform group, told me in May. “And in 2020 that number increased even further.”

Korkut listed a range of chronic abuses, including overcrowding, the withholding of medical treatment, and severe restrictions on inmates’ communications with lawyers and family members.

She added that new facilities may ease overcrowding but aren’t likely to impact other abusive practices. In fact, in at least three cases reported since 2017, the opening of new prisons has almost immediately been accompanied by outcries of torture among inmate’s families. 

Turkey’s justice ministry has declared investigations into those incidents. But that does not satisfy Gergerlioglu, who said that the hundreds of reports of abuses he has forwarded to the parliament’s human rights commission overwhelmingly go unanswered.

He chronicles a growing list of tragedies that define Turkey’s prison system: a schoolteacher who died in prison after she lost access to medications needed to treat a chronic illness, a lawyer for political prisoners who died on hunger strike while protesting her own imprisonment, the more than 800 children younger than age 6 who live in prison with their mothers—a number that has grown sharply since the failed coup.

For Lutfi Koc, the biggest challenge of imprisonment has been a lack of access to medical care. In 2019, doctors found two cysts in his brain. It took more than a year for Koc to access the care he needed to confirm the cysts were not cancer.

“They abandoned my husband to his death,” his wife said. She added that he remains in ill health, losing weight and experiencing occasional hallucinations that have prompted him to request additional hospital visits.

Medical care—and nearly every aspect of prison life—has been immensely complicated by COVID-19. Turkey’s government says that 50 inmates have died in its prisons since the onset of the virus, and it maintains that it is taking strict precautions against the virus in these facilities.

Zuleyha Koc disputes that claim and says her husband fell ill from COVID-19 in late 2020. In her telling, he endured chronically overcrowded prison cells with other clearly sick inmates, an experience punctuated only by long periods of solitary confinement.

Turkish Prison Development Since 2016

Toggle between images to show development between 2016-2017 and 2020-2021.

The crisis in Turkey’s prison system is no less alarming when told through official statistics. These numbers suggest a system near breakdown and severely unprepared to manage the excesses of its own government.

To accommodate the incredible surge in new prisoners since the coup attempt, Turkey’s Justice Ministry has released around 190,000 nonpolitical prisoners—a number greater than the entire pre-coup prison population—in two separate amnesties since 2016. Yet the prison population still surged to stratospheric highs. The prison population hit nearly 300,000 in the first half of 2020, outstripping a national prison capacity of only 233,000, despite a first amnesty. Today, the official number sits at nearly 288,000 despite a second amnesty meant to reduce prison overcrowding amid the COVID-19 pandemic. And though an unknown number of those inmates have been granted temporary house arrest as part of the amnesty, the measure expires in November, while the overall inmate population far exceeds Turkey’s current prison capacity of around 250,000.

Prisoners of conscience have been barred from release even under the COVID-19 amnesty, with pro-democracy philanthropist Osman Kavala and HDP co-leader Selahattin Demirtas remaining imprisoned despite international outcry. Violent offenders, meanwhile, have been let go, with opposition media chronicling a rash of femicides and domestic violence by inmates released in 2020.

Also freed in 2020 was far-right mafia leader Alaattin Cakici, known for organizing the assassinations of dozens of leftists in the 1970s, contracting the murder of his ex-wife at a ski resort, and issuing open death threats to opposition journalists from his prison cell in 2018.

Zuleyha Koc, meanwhile, cannot secure house arrest for her husband, despite his health and the special needs of their severely disabled 6-year-old son. “It takes all my strength not to break down in front of my children,” she said. “Every minister and official remains silent, every court denies my appeals.”

Many in Turkey would have little sympathy for so-called enemies of the state like Lutfi Koc. But they should, argues Korkut, the prison reform advocate. “The government has sharply increased incarceration rates for nonpolitical crimes as well as political ones,” she said. “Mass incarceration has become the norm in Turkey over the last 15 years, with almost zero public debate.”

After being released from the Sincan prison, Gergerlioglu hugs a relative in Ankara on July 6.

After being released from the Sincan prison, Gergerlioglu hugs a relative in Ankara on July 6. ADEM ALTAN/AFP via Getty Images

On July 1, Turkey’s Constitutional Court unexpectedly ruled that Gergerlioglu be freed and his prison sentence annulled.

But few could place their trust in Turkey’s highest judicial authority, given that Erdogan’s government has brushed aside its release rulings in the past—as well as those from the European Court of Human Rights.

Opposition parties scrambled to launch a joint campaign for Gergerlioglu’s freedom when he remained in prison days after the decision, while Gergerlioglu’s son was violently detained by police during a protest at the gates of Sincan prison.

Amid the growing outcry, Gergerlioglu was finally released late on the night of July 6. “Justice has not returned to Turkey,” he told me. “But my freedom shows that even now, activism can occasionally make a difference, even in the highly controlled justice system.”

Still, around 4,000 of Gergerlioglu’s fellow HDP members remain behind bars, including nine members of parliament.

And though Erdogan promised judicial reforms and improved prison conditions earlier this year, rights groups say recent measures only increase the potential for retribution against inmates who report abuse.

Meanwhile, the prisons keep coming. In the first three months of 2021, Turkey’s justice ministry finalized contracts for six new facilities. That news unnerves Toker, the investigative journalist. “This construction is simply inseparable from the claims of torture and inhumane conditions that grow by the day,” she said.

Gergerlioglu told me he was not subject to abuse in prison but said he was repeatedly struck by police officers during his transfer to Sincan prison in April. His status as a lawmaker was restored by parliament on July 16.

But it’s hard to be optimistic about the future.

A motion filed in March to permanently close the HDP—Turkey’s second-largest opposition party—is underway, and it would ban over 450 of the party’s members from politics. A mass trial of over 100 of the HDP’s leaders began in April. Its former co-chairman, Demirtas, remains imprisoned despite calls for his release from Turkey’s Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights in 2020.

The facility where he is held has doubled in size around him since he was first confined there in 2016.

“We have not seen the end of political jailings,” Gergerlioglu said. “But we have no choice but to continue the struggle for justice.”


CoreCivic profits drop after ending contract with Hamilton County’s Silverdale Detention Center and more business news

Private prison operator reports drop in profits

The nation’s biggest private operator of prisons and jails in the U.S. reported a drop in adjusted funds from operations during the second quarter compared with a year ago.

CoreCivic, formerly the Corrections Corp. of America (CXW), on Monday said it had adjusted funds from operations of $56 million, or 46 cents per share, in the period, compared with $67.8 million, or 56 cents per share, in the second quarter of 2020

Funds from operations is a closely watched measure in the REIT industry. It takes net income and adds back items such as depreciation and amortization.

The company said it had net income of $15.6 million, or 13 cents per share, down from $22.2 million, or 18 cents per share, in the previous year.

The prison operator, based in Brentwood, Tennessee, posted revenue of $464.6 million in the period, missing Street forecasts. Three analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $466.1 million.

CoreCivic ended its management of Hamilton County’s Silverdale Detention Center and jail at the end of 2020 in a dispute over per diem fees.

The company’s shares have risen 63% since the beginning of the year. In the final minutes of trading on Monday, shares hit $10.69, a climb of 22% in the last 12 months.

“Our business remains resilient and our cash flows are stable,” said Damon T. Hininger, president and CEO of CoreCivic. “During the quarter we continued to make meaningful progress on our capital allocation strategy to extend debt maturities, reduce overall debt leverage and improve our credit profile through the sale of our non-core real estate assets and our issuance of unsecured bonds in April.”


U.S. job openings hit a record in June

U.S. employers posted a record 10.1 million job openings in June, another sign that the job market and economy are bouncing back briskly from last year’s coronavirus shutdowns.

The Labor Department reported Monday that job openings rose from 9.5 million in May. Employers hired 6.7 million workers in June. The gap between openings and hiring suggests that firms are scrambling to find workers.

A record low 1.3 million people were laid off or fired in June.

The U.S. economy has rebounded with unexpected strength as the roll out of vaccines allows businesses to reopen or expand hours and encourages cooped-up consumers to get out again and visit restaurants, bars and shops. Still, the fast-spreading delta variant has cast a shadow over the outlook.


Boston Fed president favors autumn dial back

The president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston added his voice to a growing number of people, inside and outside the Fed, who say the central bank should soon begin to dial back its extraordinary aid for an economy that is strongly recovering from the pandemic recession.

Eric Rosengren said in an interview with The Associated Press that the central bank should announce in September that it will begin reducing its $120 billion in purchases of Treasury and mortgage bonds “this fall.”

The bond buying, which the Fed initiated after the coronavirus erupted in March of last year, has been intended to lower longer-term interest rates and encourage borrowing and spending.

— Compiled by Dave Flessner


Ex-Prisons officer suspected of leaking R. Kelly’s jail communications to blogger, federal records show

A review of Officer A’s logins to the Bureau of Prisons internal information system, meanwhile, showed that the officer had improperly accessed Kelly’s records 153 times between July 15, 2019, when Kelly first arrived at the MCC, and Dec. 12, 2019, shortly before her retirement, according to the warrant.


Conjugal Prison Visits in Australia

Key Takeaways

Conjugal prison visits in Australia are permitted only in the State of Victoria. Every other State and Territory do not allow conjugal visits. Here we explain the meaning of a Conjugal visit, whether it should be allowed in all prisons, and the rules of conjugal visits.

The entire purpose of a conjugal visit is essentially to reduce reoffending for purposes of community safety.

Conjugal Visits in Australia

Conjugal visits in jail are pre-arranged private prison visits when an inmate in prison is allowed to spend private time with a visitor, usually his/her partner. These are commonly referred to as a conjugal prison visit during which time prisoners are allowed to have sex with their spouse or partner. All States and Territories, except Victoria, prohibit conjugal visits to inmates. Conjugal visits in NSW are therefore not permitted for prisoners.

The main purpose of a conjugal visit is to allow and maintain an inmate’s family connections, which also assists in reintegration back into the community upon release from custody and ultimately reducing the chances of reoffending (recidivism). The overall impact of this is meant to make the community a safer less violent place.

Conjugal Visits Victoria | Conjugal Visit Rules

Can you visit your partner in Victoria? In Australia, Victoria is the only state in our nation that permits conjugal visits in Australian prisons subject to the conjugal visit rules. Section 38 and Section 37 Corrections Act 1986 (Vic) permits these sorts of visits for prisoners within Victoria, subject to conditions.

Section 37 allows a relative or friend who visits a prisoner to see and speak with the prisoner but is not allowed to touch the prisoner unless the visit is part of a contact visiting programme or residential visiting programme.

There are two main types of conjugal visits in Victoria, namely, the first is for an intimate partner relationship between the prisoner and his/her partner. The second is centred around the prisoner’s children.

Corrections Victoria may permit an inmate to have a conjugal visit in any of the following prisons:

  • Tarrengower Prison
  • Marngoneet Prison
  • Loddon Prison
  • Fulham Prison
  • Beechworth Prison

In order to be eligible for a conjugal visit, amongst the conditions required, the following conditions must be met:

  • The prisoner is either a medium or minimum security inmate,
  • The prisoner is serving an imprisonment sentence of 18-months or more,
  • The visitor has been screened and part of the prison’s approved visitor list.

How to Find Out If Someone is in Jail Victoria

Corrections Victoria can disclose to any member of the public as to whether a prisoner is in jail, and which prison he/she is an inmate in. Corrections Victoria will not disclose any more details than that. This means, they will not tell you if the person is under supervision in the community or any other contact details.

Corrections Victoria will first need consent from the prisoner or inmate before disclosing information about the prisoner to anyone else, except for court proceedings.

Corrections Victoria can disclose a prisoner’s information to the prisoner’s lawyer.

In order to access more personal information of a prisoner must be accessed through a freedom of information request. This can also be done online.

Define Conjugal Visit | Conjugal Visit Meaning

The visit explained: ‘Conjugal’ by its definition alone relates to marriage or the relationship between a couple and includes their sexual relationship. Therefore, a conjugal visit for a prisoner in jail is where the prisoner is allowed to have his/her partner visit them in jail for private time, which also permits them to have sex in jail.

Conjugal property on the other hand refers to a married or defacto couples property or assets. This may include property or assets acquired prior to or during the relationship.

Conjugate vs Conjugal

To explain the difference between ‘conjugate’ and ‘conjugal’, ‘conjugate’ on the one hand is 2 or more things joined together. This can include when two people get married, they become one. On the other hand, ‘conjugal’ (sometimes misspelt as ‘congical’) is an adjective describing all matters relating to marriage. These matters include the sexual relationship of a couple.

Are You Allowed to Visit Your Partner | Conjugal Visits in Prison

All prisoners who’re in jail are generally allows to be visited by their partner, family and friends in Australia. Each prison or correctional centre will have their logistical ways for people to book a prison visit. In contrast to a ‘normal’ prison visit, a conjugal visit allows the inmates partner or de-facto to visit and have sex while they are in prison during a pre-arranged private meeting time.

Define Inmate | Inmate Meaning

Definition of an ‘inmate’ is a person who is incarcerated or confined in a correctional centre, commonly referred to a prison or prison hospital. An inmate can end up being confined in a jail because of being bail refused as a result of serious criminal charges, in which case he/she will be an inmate during the court process until the case finalises. On the other hand, an inmate can end up being imprisoned as a result being sentenced for a serious criminal offence.

Conjugal Rights

Conjugal rights commonly refer to the rights, including sexual relations, that are exercisable by each partner or spouse in a relationship under law. It is often referred to as rights created by marriage and extends to other rights including property and assets.

Victoria is the only state in Australia that permits conjugal prison visits for prisoners as a conjugal right. All other states and territories do not recognise nor permit conjugal visits for inmates in their prisons.

Australian Prison Conditions | Prisoners’ Rights in Australia

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) information sheet outlines some of the issues concerning human rights in respect to prisoners or inmates in Australian prisons, Australian jail conditions and life in Australian prison. It also suggests how these human rights issues can be addressed.

Prisoners are inherently deprived of their liberty to be free in society. As a result, it makes an inmate vulnerable to discrimination and other human rights violations within the prison by other inmates and prison staff. This is especially so for juvenile inmates.

The AHRC reports that prison conditions within Australian prisons have significant human rights concerns, including the following:

  • Being placed in cells with other inmates they don’t feel safe with
  • Insufficient or inadequate mental health or physical health services. Being in solitary confinement, for example, exacerbates these issues.
  • Overcrowded conditions within some Australian prisons. The UN Human Rights Committee discovered inhuman treatment of an Aboriginal juvenile in a NSW prison. It found that a juvenile was put into isolation in an adult jail, exposed to artificial light for prolonged periods of time, and had some of his clothes removed.
  • Insufficient access to rehabilitation programs concerning alcohol and drugs, including harm minimisation programs. This leads to a high level of blood-borne virus transmissions.
  • Insufficient access to education services.

Some prison monitoring systems do exist in states and territories. However, there is no national standards for monitoring prison conditions and juvenile detention centres. To address this, our nations’ Government has expressed intentions of ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment (OPCAT). This would create a national preventative way to monitor prison conditions across all prisons in Australia, in order to prevent human rights violations of inmates.

Otherwise, there are within each state and territory, anti-discrimination bodies, ombudsmen, and interna prison procedures to lodge complaints of such human rights violations. Federal prisoners can lodge a complaint directly to the Australian Human Rights Commission concerning human rights violations. However, even if the commission finds a human rights violation, its recommendations are not legally enforceable.

South Australian Prisons

South Australian Prisons
Adelaide Pre-Release Centre

  • Address: Grand Junction Road, Northfield, SA
  • Phone: (08) 8343 0100
Adelaide Remand Centre

  • Address: 208 Currie Street, Adelaide, SA
  • Phone: (08) 8216 3200
Mount Gambier Prison Cadell Training Centre

  • Address: Boden Road, Cadell, SA (about 300 metres south of Morgan-Cadell Rd and Hodge Rd)
  • Phone: (08) 8540 3600
Port Lincoln Prison

  • Address: Pound Lane, Port Lincoln, SA
  • Phone: (08) 8682 0800

South Australia has a total of 9 prisons outlined in the above table.

Of the above 9 prisons, Adelaide Women’s Prison, Adelaide Pre-Release Centre, Port Lincoln Prison and Cadell Training Centre are focused on reintegration for prisoners before being released back into the community.

Prisons in WA

The Department of Justice in Western Australia (WA) operates and manages 17 prisons. These prisons include prison farms that provide various security classifications from minimum, medium to maximum security.

Prisons in Western Australia

In addition, the following are minimum security prison work camps:

  1. Warburton Work Camp for Men
  2. Wyndham Work Camp for Men
  3. Walpole Work Camp for Men
  4. Roebourne Work Camp for Men
  5. Dowerin Work Camp for Men

Corrective Services NSW Training

Corrective Services NSW contains the Brush Farm Corrective Services Academy which provides specialised quality training to prison staff and external clients. its purpose is to increase the effectiveness and skills of corrective services staff. The academy is considered leaders in correctional training for Corrective Services NSW.

They offer a wide range of training services, including Aboriginal Cultural Awareness Training, Case Management and Report Writing, Correctional Officer Training, Mental Health Awareness, Security Awareness training and Working with Sex Offenders training.

Should All Australian Prisons Allow Conjugal Visits?

On the one hand, conjugal visits arguably increase the community safety by facilitating the ability of inmates to maintain family relationships, improved mental health, reduction in violence within prisons, easier re-integration into the community upon release from custody and maintenance of fundamental human rights by creating a more humane prison system. These factors all lead to a reduction in the likelihood of reoffending relevant to rehabilitation and community safety.

On the other hand, conjugal visits are frowned upon for the following reasons:

  • Deprivation of intimacy for offenders in prison is an inherent part of the punishment.
  • High level of resources, money and time goes into facilitating a conjugal visit for prisoners, placing arguably an undue strain on the system.
  • Some prisoners miss out on getting a conjugal visit while others do, is something that creates a sense of unfairness.
  • Safety concerns of visitors and inmates due to the physical contact nature of these visits.
  • The appearance or perception of coming across as ‘soft on crime’ impacting public confidence in the elected Government.

AP investigation: Women’s prison fostered culture of abuse

By Michael Balsamo and Michael R. Sisak | The Associated Press

FILE – The Federal Correctional Institution is shown in Dublin, Calif., July 20, 2006. An Associated Press investigation has uncovered a permissive and toxic culture at at FCI Dublin, a Northern California federal prison for women. The prison enabled years of sexual misconduct by predatory employees and cover-ups that kept the accusations out of the public eye. The AP obtained internal Bureau of Prisons documents, statements and recordings from inmates, interviewed current and former prison employees and reviewed thousands of pages of court records. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Inside one of the only federal women’s prisons in the United States, inmates say they have been subjected to rampant sexual abuse by correctional officers and even the warden, and were often threatened or punished when they tried to speak up.

Prisoners and workers at the federal correctional institution in Dublin, California, even have a name for it: “The rape club.”


Private prisons are a failed experiment with ‘perverse and immoral incentives,’ ABA House says in calling for their end

Annual Meeting

Private prisons are a failed experiment with ‘perverse and immoral incentives,’ ABA House says in calling for their end

Image from Shutterstock.

The ABA House of Delegates passed a resolution Tuesday opposing private prisons and juvenile detention centers.

Co-sponsored by the Criminal Justice Section, National Bar Association, and the Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice, Resolution 507 opposes the use of private jails, prison and juvenile detention centers to detain people before they stand trial and after they are convicted. It passed in a 273-33 vote.

Stephen A. Saltzburg of the Criminal Justice Section introduced the resolution Tuesday morning at the ABA Hybrid Annual Meeting. He noted that the ABA had adopted Resolution 115B in 1990 warning governments to proceed with caution before entering into contracts with private prison companies.

“We’ve had 31 years to take a look at private prisons and jails and juvenile detention centers, and what have we learned? We’ve learned that they do more harm than good,” Saltzburg said. “They have a tendency to cut staff, they have a tendency to cut programs, and that probably shouldn’t surprise anybody because that’s how you make a profit.”

GEO Group, CoreCivic, and Management and Training Corp. are among the companies that run prisons in the United States.

In response to a request for an interview, GEO Group referred the ABA Journal to Day 1 Alliance, a trade association representing the three companies.

Ahead of the resolution’s passage on Tuesday, Day 1 Alliance spokeswoman Alexandra Wilkes called the resolution “politically motivated” and “ill-informed.”

“If the sponsors of this proposed resolution had any idea what they were talking about, they’d know that private sector contractors have been part of the solution to some of the toughest challenges facing America’s criminal justice system—including helping alleviate unsafe overcrowding and unconstitutional conditions in government-run prisons while providing greater access to recidivism-reducing programs that help returning citizens rejoin their communities,” Wilkes wrote in an emailed statement.

The private prison industry gained a foothold in the 1980s, ostensibly as a way to ease surging prison populations, the Marshall Project reports. Operators of private prisons say they help ease the burden on taxpayers by reducing public spending on government-run facilities.

But Resolution 507’s report says private prisons have fueled incarceration. The industry lobbies to impose stricter laws and penalties and opposes sentencing reforms, the report says.

“Today, private prison corporations are driven by perverse and immoral incentives whereby an increase in crime and an increase in the number of human beings placed into America’s prisons is good business news for that industry,” the report states.

A March report by The Sentencing Project found that as of 2019, private prisons incarcerated 115,428 people and that the private prison population had increased 32% since 2000.

“However, the private prison population has declined 16% since reaching its peak in 2012 with 137,220 people. Declines in private prisons’ use make these latest overall population numbers the lowest since 2006, when the population was 113,791,” the report states.

President Joe Biden addressed the use of for-profit facilities for federal detainees in a Jan. 26 executive order. The order bars the Justice Department from renewing contracts with private criminal detention facilities.

In 2016, the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General found that for-profit detention facilities “do not maintain the same levels of safety and security for people in the federal criminal justice system or for correctional staff. We have a duty to provide these individuals with safe working and living conditions,” the order states.

Follow along with the ABA Journal’s coverage of the 2021 ABA Hybrid Annual Meeting here.


A Company That Designs Jails is Spying On Activists Who Oppose Them

HDR Inc. is a multi-billion dollar architecture and design firm that has designed over 275 jails and prisons. But designing buildings isn’t the only service the company offers—according to documents obtained through a public records request and provided to Motherboard, the firm has been monitoring activist groups’ social media for the government, including people who have opposed its plans to build jails and highways.

The documents show HDR surveilled both public and private Facebook groups run by activists opposed to its projects, including the resistance camp Moadag Thadiwa, which sought to block the construction of a nearly $2 billion highway that cuts through the sacred Indigenous mountain Moahdak Do’ag in Arizona. Other groups the firm monitored include a private group for locals called Ahwatukee411, and Protecting Arizona’s Resources & Children (PARC), an organization that sued the Arizona Department of Transportation over the freeway. 

The company also generated an “influencer” report, an analysis of public sentiment on social media platforms, and a geospatial analysis that placed communities into categories such as “ethnic enclaves,” “barrios urbanos,” “scholars and patriots,” and “American dreamers.” HDR said it created social media accounts with a reach of over 5,000 Facebook followers and 25,000 email subscribers weekly that “provided a platform for accurate project information.”       

The surveillance is conducted by HDR’s STRATA team, a division that “leverages large data sets to visually display social and political risk nationwide,” according to documents obtained by Building Up People Not Prisons, a prison abolitionist coalition. The company’s “social listening” program provides 24/7 monitoring of social media platforms to determine trends and key influencers. Gathered intelligence is then sent to the authorities and used to inform HDR’s “strategic communications” practices, wherein the company creates targeted television, radio, and social media campaigns, as well as hosts public hearings for clients.

“Controversy is costly, both in reputation and in dollars. Social and political risk deserves attention at the planning stage of a project or program where it can be carefully assessed,” HDR advertises in a publicly-available document, “and when there is time to develop strategies to mitigate or diminish risk.” (Since this article was published, the document has been removed from HDR’s website. A copy is linked above, for posterity)

HDR declined to respond to Motherboard’s request for comment, with a spokesperson stating that it is “corporate policy not to speak on behalf of our clients or their projects.”  

According to additional documents obtained by Motherboard through a public records request, the Board of Commissioners in Greene County, Ohio hired HDR in April 2021 for “justice consulting and planning services” to construct a new jail that will need approval from voters. As part of the contract, HDR is sending weekly reports to the county summarizing its social listening campaign, which identifies potential risks, influencers, social networks, and user demographics. The company is also developing a “public involvement plan” that “educates stakeholders and the overall community about the proposed solution” in an attempt to persuade locals on the project.

HDR’s work is an example of what some scholars call “corporate counterinsurgency,” or corporate countermovements. When social movements threaten profits and political agendas, corporations and the government sometimes work side-by-side to neutralize those who oppose controversial projects.  

“Often these techniques are dressed like wolves in sheeps’ clothing,” John Stauber, an author and expert on industry manipulation, told Motherboard. “They are run like a public participation process, when the real purposes are surveying and evaluating public opinion, the leadership of potential opposition groups, and citizen activists who seek to change, delay or halt a multi-million dollar project.” 

In these campaigns, corporations typically describe the public as an equal partner, Stauber said. “But if members of the public are opposed in any way to the objectives of the project they become the enemy, to be dealt with and overcome through sophisticated and usually invisible PR and media management techniques.”

Tactics often fall into “hard” and “soft” categories. Hard tactics include deputizing police to confront protesters on the ground, as well as infiltration and other forms of violence. At the Standing Rock anti-pipeline encampment in North Dakota, for example, private security guards working for Energy Transfer Partners violently attacked water protectors with dogs and pepper spray, and police arrested more than 500 people. Soft tactics include engaging reformist-oriented activists and what some scholars call “engineering consent” through astroturf campaigns and other public relation strategies. Enbridge, the company building the Line 3 pipeline, is funding “Minnesotans for Line 3,” a pro-pipeline group presenting itself as a grassroots organization.

HDR’s STRATA appears to primarily use the latter strategy. Hoping to secure a contract for designing and planning a controversial new women’s prison in Massachusetts, HDR advertised its social listening services in a report submitted to Massachusetts’ Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM) in September 2020. 

“Now more than ever it is critical to monitor and utilize digital conversation to help guide our communication plans and processes,” the company wrote. “We live in a time where conversations on social equity and injustices are extremely prevalent in our daily conversations and the conversations shift drastically from one topic to the next in a matter of hours.”  

DCAMM and HDR are well-acquainted with activist-induced risk. In June 2021, Travis County in Austin, Texas paused its plans with HDR to build a new women’s jail following pushback from activists. And on two occasions, DCAMM’s plans to build a new women’s prison have been delayed by legal challenges mounted by the local activist group Families for Justice and Healing (FJAH). 

“We don’t need the police. We don’t need cameras. We don’t need a brand new prison. We need resources,” Sashi James, an FJAH member whose parents were incarcerated when she was a child, told Motherboard.

Perhaps with this risk in mind, DCAMM’s Project Manager Emmanuel Andrade expressed interest in HDR’s social listening platform, according to emails obtained by Motherboard. “We’re intrigued by how HDR would use this communication practice of monitoring and analyzing online conversations in our project,” he replied. “Can HDR share a few examples of how that has been accomplished in recent projects?”  

HDR’s response revealed the company had been surveilling activists’ social media and managing “strategic communications” for the government since at least 2016. In 2015, the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) hired HDR as an “engineering consultant” for For the Akimel O’odham people, who live in the nearby Gila River Indian Community (GRIC), the mountain is respected, revered and home to their most powerful deity. Indigenous and environmental activists mounted a defense, with a resistance camp and legal challenges brought by GRIC, Protecting Arizona’s Resources and Children (PARC), and other groups. 

The surveillance and PR helped inform strategy and messaging that, according to HDR,  “effectively changed the conversation of the project to focus on the positive public support, economic benefits, job creation and improved mobility in the area.”

While HDR claims to promote engagement with citizens and stakeholders, GRIC has said that their concerns, and the concerns of other indigenous groups, weren’t respected. Police barred GRIC and activists from attending at least one public meeting before the highway was officially opened in 2019.  

James, the activist with Families for Justice and Healing, similarly said the government and HDR are not listening to directly impacted community members. During a public meeting earlier this year, Massachusetts allotted HDR hours to present its proposal, while the community was allotted eight minutes, according to James. 

On June 4, 2021, the Massachusetts Department of Corrections and DCAMM signed a contract with HDR for the study and design of a jail for women. DCAMM did not respond to a request for clarification on whether the agency will be relying on HDR’s social listening services.  

To activists like James, hiring public relations consultants like HDR who claim to know what’s best for the community is just another form of policing.

“They are bringing in people who have no idea, who have never been incarcerated, who have never had to even think about what it feels like to take a right turn without a blinker on just to get pulled over and get your car searched” she said. “When you have [directly impacted] organizations laying out infrastructures of how we envision public safety, to say that you want to build a new prison shows that the system only has one vision. And that’s to keep incarcerating us.”

Update: After this article was published, a document about HDR’s PR strategy was removed from the company’s website. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Global drug laws can be traced back to a small group of conserative American men

DO YOU KNOW why we have the drug laws that we have today in Ireland, and around the globe?

To be blunt – excuse the pun – the reasons are racism and marijuana. As far back as the 1930s in the US, the infamous champion of severe punishment for drug users, Harry Anslinger, was arguing for total drug prohibition, even when people’s attitudes towards drugs were less critical.

On reflection, it is evident that American society did not shape the world’s attitudes to drug use. Instead, powerful men in the United States shaped those views.

The Anslinger effect

Anslinger headed up the United States Federal Bureau of Narcotics for over three decades, from 1930 to 1962. In this space of time, he succeeded in exporting his anti-drugs mission to the world.

US President Kennedy at a presentation of an Outstanding Record Citation to Harry J. Anslinger, former Commissioner of Narcotics, 1962

Source: Alamy Stock Photo

He once stated, “American youth is jeopardised by weed – those who are lured into the use of marijuana are destined to be transformed into moral and mental degenerates – some riveting maniacs – others violent criminals”. It’s almost as if Anslinger’s ghost lives on in some of our policymakers today. 

However, Anslinger’s efforts to demonise drugs in the US was also a racist campaign. He once claimed that black people and Latinos were the primary users of marijuana; he made a concerted effort over decades to conflate violence, drug use, and race.

It is well documented that he cherry-picked evidence to present on drugs, ignoring the advice of the majority of medical professionals to convince legislators that marijuana was linked to violent crime.

I think of the enchanting sounds of Billie Holiday, who used Heroin, and who was hounded on her deathbed by Anslinger; Anslinger asserted that Jazz musicians created satanic music due to smoking marijuana. Johann Hari has written about the racial claims by the politician, whereby Anslinger stated that cannabis promoted interracial relationships. 

Global agenda

Anslinger took his anti-drugs mission to the United Nations, along with his unintelligent arguments, and won. Several conventions, such as the 1931 Narcotics Limitations and the 1936 Convention for Suppression of Illicit Traffic, have Anslinger’s fingerprints all over them.

Such conventions aimed to encourage other states to introduce criminal prosecution for the consumption of drugs. Anslinger managed to take personal bias and vendetta and impose it on a global scale. He ensured that the US was the authority on drugs at the UN between the 1930s and 1960s, using his high-level position to lead many of the negotiations on the international stage. He did so without the US ever joining the League of Nations.

After a decade of drafting, these efforts resulted in the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. Over 60 years on, in 2022, we are still handcuffed to this piece of legislation. Although amended over the years, the treaty remains the dominant law of many nations. It can be understood as a global policy on drugs prohibition.

The body count under this failed regime is immeasurable. The global scale of the treaty’s influence makes the suffering hard to capture in numbers, but the evidence is overwhelming and undeniable that this regime has failed.

At no point in the last 61 years of its existence has global drug use ever declined. A study in the British Medical Journal in 2013 found that since the 1990s, the supply of drugs across Europe and the US has increased, prices have fallen, and purity has increased.

Continuing Anslinger’s racist legacy, the war on drugs has targeted Black Americans: Black people comprise 13% of the US population, but 40% of those incarcerated for drug offences in the US. By adopting the 1961 Convention in Ireland, we have also achieved nothing. The addiction continued, drug markets exploded, generations of families have been wiped out, and to what end?

Failure of prohibition

Prohibition had no evidence base in America, and it’s not grounded in any evidence in our Drugs Act in Ireland either. In the 1970s in Ireland, Minister Brendan Corish said that the state was fulfilling its United Nations obligations when debating the Misuse of Drugs Act.

But these “United Nations obligations” were never founded on evidence. Even Corish expressed serious doubts when introducing the legislation. Tracking our drug laws back in time illuminates that it has always been ideology over the evidence; specifically, the personal ideology of a small handful of powerful, racist, conservative American men.

What we have witnessed under this treaty is death, debt and misery. What was once coined the “war on drugs” by President Nixon in 1971 (following decades of Anslinger’s lead) is now seen for what it really is: a war on people, on culture and the poor.

A 2011 report by the Global Commission on Drug Policy unequivocally concluded that the war on drugs was a failure. Indeed, the war on drugs has failed is a global consensus among health experts, drug policy advocates, and health authorities.

Despite this, last year, the International Narcotics Control Board published a paper called Celebrating 60 Years of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961. It isn’t easy to comprehend that its authors are experiencing the exact times as the rest of us reading the document. The paper says that an underpinning principle of the 1961 Convention is the health and welfare of humankind: yet this completely ignores the realities of people’s lives under its existence. The paper states the convention has proved its value, yet, globally, around 150,000 people still die every year from drug overdoses. 

The 1961 Convention essentially created global prohibition. Prohibition brings violence, poor-quality drugs, and criminalisation, all of which fly in the face of integration and health. To say that the convention is based on health and welfare is a complete contradiction. References to treatment, education, and rehabilitation are paternalistic and tokenistic without real drug policy reform.

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Even the World Health Organization has called for the decriminalisation of drug use. They are quoted as saying, “Bold policies can deliver bold results”. When will Ireland be bold and brave? The time is now for Ireland to have a Citizens Assembly on Drugs and rid ourselves of the cold chains of the Misuse of Drugs Act, which is, in reality, a product of America’s racist and ideological War on Drugs.

It is clear to see how America’s anti-drugs politicians influenced international conventions, which in turn influenced Ireland’s drugs policy, never being led by any evidence. Our drug laws in Ireland have their roots in a war on people; our Citizen’s Assembly must not only end that war, but it must remedy some of the damage that this war has done to countless lives.

Lynn Ruane is an independent senator.