Probe after drone crashes in Risdon raising concerns

An investigation is underway as to how and why a drone crashed into Risdon Prison on Wednesday night.

TASMANIAN corrections authorities are investigating the circumstances surrounding a drone that crash-landed in the state’s largest prison on Wednesday night.

Prison sources have told the Mercury drones, otherwise known as unmanned aerial vehicles, are being used to smuggle contraband into the prison.

There are concerns drones are being used to smuggle contraband into Risdon Prison. Picture: AFP

There are concerns drones are being used to smuggle contraband into Risdon Prison. Picture: AFPSource:AFP

And the crash-landing of a drone has raised questions about what the Tasmanian Prison Service is doing to stop these drones flying over prison fences.

Drones have become popular for amateur and professional photographers for their ability to get bird’s eye views. But they are also being used for courier services and surveillance.

Last night acting director of Corrective Services Dale Webster confirmed the crash-landing.

But he would not be drawn on the issues of contraband.

“A drone has been seized having crashed within Risdon Prison Complex,” he said.

“This matter is under active investigation and it would not be appropriate to comment further.”

Prison sources suggested contraband was dropped before the drone crashed and it was likely that it was confiscated by prison staff.

In August, the Mercury revealed seizures of drugs, booze and other contraband had hit a record high in Tasmania’s prisons.

This sparked debate about whether detection had improved or more inmates were trying to smuggle in prohibited items following the cigarette smoking ban.

Figures released by the Justice Department show seizures at Risdon Prison and Mary Hutchinson Women’s Prison totalled 364 in the 2015-2016 year to mid-May, easily eclipsing the 284 busts in the previous financial year.

The number of alcohol, drug and drug-taking implement seizures has peaked at 163 (up from 119 the previous year), as has confiscations involving “other unauthorised items’’, totalling 127 (up from 113), with six weeks left in the reporting period.

A move to drones would be viewed as a significant step up in smuggling contraband into the prison.

In 2011, the Mercury reported tennis balls being thrown over fences were being used to smuggle illicit drugs into the prison. In April this year a whistleblower revealed hardened criminals, including convicted murderers, were using a phone smuggling racket to share selfies with the outside world.

Issues with drones in US prisons have been increasing in recent years but incidents in Australia have been rare.

In New South Wales last year there were six reported cases of drones flying over prisons.

This included one instance with a prison staff seeing one drone 100m above the main part of the super max Goulburn Prison in December.

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