Pubdate: Fri, 13 Jun 2014
Source: New Zealand Herald (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2014 New Zealand Herald
Author: Greg Ansley
Column: In Australia
Page: A33
Bookmark: (Incarceration)


Mother-Of-Three Has Heroin Overdose at Age 41 Despite Warnings to 
Authorities That She Was Drugged Out

In February last year Tracey Brannigan, long-time drug addict and 
convicted dealer, partied with her lover in a highrisk cell at 
Sydney's Dillwynia women's prison. The next day she was found dead of 
a heroin overdose. Engineering student Boyan Slat is seeking funding 
for his ocean clean-up contraptions.

Brannigan's tragic story unfolded during an inquest this week, 
revealing a series of failures by prison authorities including the 
last, final, mistake of not heeding warnings that the 41-year-old 
mother-of-three was bombed out of her head.

More serious were the repetitions of earlier assessments that 
Australian prison authorities have lost control of the supply and 
consumption of a range of illicit drugs by inmates, and have yet to 
fully deal with the dayto-day consequences. International experience 
shows the problems Australian authorities face.

A study by prominent researchers Heino Stover and Ingo Ilja Michels 
reported in the Harm Reduction Journal, described drug use among 
prisoners as endemic. Drug dependence among European inmates rose to 
as high as half of male prisoners, and an even higher 60 per cent for women.

Up to two-thirds of hard drug users continued to inject after they 
were jailed and 24 per cent of injecting prisoners said they started in jail.

In the United States, soaring numbers of people jailed for 
drug-related offences led to high rates of drug use in prisons. As 
many as 20 per cent injected for the first time in jail.

Studies in Australia have repeatedly shown most prisoners - as many 
as one in seven - used drugs before they were jailed. Many continued 
their use inside.

Although detailed figures of the extent of drug-taking among 
prisoners are rare, drug-test information obtained by the Adelaide 
Advertiser under Freedom of Information laws gave some indication: 
one in five prisoners in South Australian jails returned positive 
samples during testing in 2012. The most common drugs were cannabis, 
buprenorphine - a painkiller also used for treating addiction that is 
causing growing concern - and amphetamines such as crystal meth.

Despite security measures, the drugs keep coming. Many are simply 
thrown over a prison fence or smuggled through visitor centres. New 
technology is also being employed: in one case drugs were reportedly 
dropped into a prison using a drone.

After Brannigan's death, prison authorities found four syringes in a 
shampoo container.

Within the nation's prison systems, pragmatism has forced new 
policies. As well as increasing efforts against smuggling, many jails 
use drug detection dogs in cell blocks and test prisoners' urine for 
illicit substances.

They also run detoxification, methadone treatment programmes and 
counselling services, and test for blood-borne viruses.

But the drugs keep coming. Hundreds of people are charged with 
smuggling narcotics into prisons every year and authorities admit 
that illicit drug use is common and widespread inside cellblocks.

The inquest into Brannigan's death has given yet another human face 
to the problem. An addict who had been jailed for a large part of her 
life since she was 19, Brannigan was in jail when she gave birth to 
the youngest of her three children. The inquest heard that despite 
knowing of Brannigan's addiction and repeated overdoses in custody, 
and being warned earlier in the day by a prisoner advocate that she 
was stoned, guards returned her to a high-risk cell and left her 
unsupervised for 17 hours.

Detective Inspector Gary Jones told the inquest Brannigan and her 
cellmate Lauren Ironside were in a relationship, in which Ironside 
supplied drugs for sex and protection. Brannigan died after the two 
held a "drug party" involving heroin and prescription drugs.

One guard told the inquest an entire unit at Dillwynia had to be 
treated for intoxication after a "flood" of drugs in 2010. The 
prison's security manager, Leanne O'Toole, estimated that 75 per cent 
of inmates were abusing drugs.

Brannigan's overdose mirrored another in the New South Wales country 
town of Junee three years ago, in which 28-year-old armed robber 
Anthony Van Rysewyk, died of a heroin overdose in his cell.

As with Brannigan, the signs of intoxication were missed by guards. 
Coroner Sharon Freund also found that illicit drugs were readily 
available to Junee inmates.
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