Drug trade leads to ban on prison gifts

July 2, 2008

The Corrections Department has decided to ban gifts delivered in person or by mail to inmates in its latest bid to counter the drugs trade in prisons.

The move comes after corrections officials found drugs in toothpaste, curry and even dead toads thrown over prison walls.

Department chief Wanchai Rujanawong said drug trafficking into jails had become more elaborate, but each prison had only two staff to screen gifts.

Since early this year, corrections staff have intercepted drugs stuffed in basic necessities, such as toothpaste and baby powder, sent to prisoners. Drugs were also found hidden inside thaepoh pork curry (speed pills hidden in straws inserted inside the morning glory stalks) and inside fried eggs.

Some people even removed the insides from dead toads, replaced the organs with packets of methamphetamine, and then tossed them over the prison walls.

Therefore, gifts and postal packages would no longer be allowed, Mr Wanchai said.

Basic necessities would be available at reasonable prices at prison shops, for both inmates and their relatives to buy.

Only in emergency cases would prison chiefs decide to accept packages, for example those containing medicine.

Mr Wanchai admitted that about 20,000 drug traffickers had brought narcotics and mobile phones into prisons to raise funds to defend themselves in court. They did a brisk trade, he said.

Thailand’s 30 prisons now house about 170,000 prisoners, 90,000 of which are serving time for drug offences.

Five major prisons _ Bang Kwang, Khlong Prem, Khao Bin, Central Prison and Khlong Phai _ each with about 5,000 inmates, each admit 300 to 500 visitors daily.

Apart from screening staff, the department had conducted random searches at prisons, finding drugs once or twice a month, said Mr Wanchai.

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