The Department for Correctional Services is beginning to win the war against contraband within SA prisons, with a 20% reduction in illegal items being seized last financial year.

The number of contraband searches undertaken across the prison system has increased by more than 200% over the past six years.

In 2015/16 there were 1,171 illegal items seized by correctional officers or police. Despite the increase in searches, the number of drugs found within the system dropped by 57% last year.

With the number of drugs found within prisons decreasing, there has been a rise in other types of contraband found such as:

• The amount of illegal tattooing equipment sized almost doubled (48 in 2015/16 vs 24 in 2014/15)
• The number of electronic equipment items detected nearly tripled (66 in 2015/16 vs 21 in 2014/15).
• The amount of homemade weapons increased to 78 (five year average of 47 items per year)

The contraband finds are the result of strong intelligence and surveillance capabilities, the expansion of the dog squad within the Operations Security Unit and ‘Operation Dedicate’ which is run in conjunction with SA Police.

The Department’s sophisticated security measures include a $2.7 million investment biometric security gates and ionscan testing of visitors at four prisons (Adelaide Remand Centre, Mobling, Yatala Labor Prison and Mount Gambier Prison), with the technology being introduced to Port Augusta Prison later this year.

Other contraband security measures include regular searches of all prisons and cells along with thorough screenings of prisoner mail.

While the number of drugs found within prisons was significantly lower in 2015/16 than the year prior, the number of inmates testing positive for drugs increased by 9.5%. The increase can be attributed to ore targeted testing, with slightly less prisoners tested for a higher positive return rate (11.7% in 2014/15 vs 13.6% in 2015-16).


The Department’s Dog Squad was strengthened in 2016, with the team now consisting of eight officers and 10 dogs.

Quotes attributable to Corrections Minister Pete Malinauskas

Contraband, especially drugs and weapons, pose a significant risk to the safety and security of staff, prisoners and the system as a whole.

DCS and SAPOL send a consistently clear message that contraband items will be found.

Increased and specialised resources along with a strong intelligence capability have made it incredibly difficult for people to smuggle contraband into our prisons.

The decrease in findings, despite a dramatic increase in searches, shows that we are successfully deterring this illegal activity. I congratulate both SAPOL and DCS for their outstanding work in the fight against contraband.

Quotes attributable to Department for Correctional Services CEO David Brown

No jurisdiction can boast a prison system 100% free from contraband.

Increased search capacity, strengthened access control and improved intelligence sharing between Corrections and SAPOL means it’s harder now than it’s ever been to bring unlawful items in to our prisons.

Quotes attributable to Officer in Charge of SAPOL’s Police Corrections Section Detective Superintendent Steve Taylor

SAPOL’s component to Operation Dedicate proactively targets anyone attempting to introduce contraband into the prison system; particularly through the visitor’s scheme. We operate in metropolitan and country areas at random intervals and in 2015/16 have had some form of interaction with 689 individuals.

Proactive working partnerships between SAPOL and DCS significantly increase the risk of being detected. Simply just don’t take that risk!