Drug traffickers have invented ingenious ways to smuggle drugs into prisons - including intentionally committing crimes to get arrested.
But 95 percent of the drugs meant for inmates last year were seized at the reception centers in Lai Chi Kok and Tai Lam, officials say.
Correctional Services Officers Association junior section chairman Peter Chan Ba-tak credited the thoroughness of the inspectors and controversial body-cavity searches for the success in preventing drugs from getting into prisons.
He said the 5 percent that did get through were either smuggled into prisons using less checked cavities in the body as well as through visitors. A prisoner then showed reporters how he stored 12 peanuts in his sinuses before sneezing them out. Other hiding areas include the ear canal and the rectum.
Chan said drugs were sometimes seized from inmates who were imprisoned for non-drug offenses, indicating they were deliberately getting arrested to penetrate the prison system.
"Some inmates are well-trained in hiding as many items as possible inside their bodies. It is really amazing, like performing acrobatics," said Law Kam-kuen, the association's vice chairman.
The Correctional Services Department said it "makes every effort to prevent the smuggling of dangerous drugs into, and eradicate their presence in correctional institutions."
Last December The Standard exclusively reported that the United Nations had expressed concern over the practice of cavity searches on inmates and urged the government to seek alternative methods.
The UN Committee against Torture said if such a search has to be conducted, it must be only as a last resort. Human Rights Monitor director Law Yuk-kai expressed his support for the UN's view.
But the union disagrees. "If we did not maintain our current practice of cavity searches, our prisons would be inundated with drugs," Law said.
"Do you think our community would still have confidence in Hong Kong's law and order if our prisons are plagued with drug problems?
"Conducting a body-cavity search is an unpleasant task. We would be happy if there are new technologies to replace manual checking. But before that happens, body-cavity searches are the only way to keep our prisons drug-free."
Law said one reason syndicates try to smuggle drugs into prisons is because they can fetch up to 10 times the price on the outside. "It is a matter of supply and demand. But our inspection system is so tight that many cases are spotted the moment we begin intensive body-cavity searches," Chan said.
Author: Patsy Moy
Pubdate: Mon, 12 Jan 2009
Source: Standard, The (China)