x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Drug smuggling into jails still rife

Illegal substances are being smuggled into jails despite searches of all visitors, the Dubai Police chief said.

DUBAI // Drugs are being smuggled into jails despite searches of all visitors, the Dubai Police chief said yesterday. An official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that 30 people were caught trying to bring drugs into prisons last year. And a few weeks ago, a prisoner died of a heroin overdose. The official said all those caught were arrested and referred to the Public Prosecution. Five inmates are being tried on additional drugs charges.

The chief, Lt Col Dahi Khalfan Tamim, said police could not completely halt the smuggling of narcotics into prisons, which is a problem worldwide. "No one is allowed to enter jail without being thoroughly searched. However, in some cases inmates or their visitors hide the drugs in places which cannot be touched," he said. "It is not an easy matter and the searches are made on a continuous basis. If an inmate is somehow able to smuggle drugs inside and uses it, then he should also be accountable for his actions."

Lt Col Khalfan said prisoners came up with ingenious ways of getting drugs into prisons. In some cases inmates who go to clinics or hospitals for check-ups pick up narcotics left by accomplices in bathrooms or other places. He said there had been no recorded cases of police officers or jail guards caught smuggling drugs into prisons, but that authorities would take such cases seriously: "If any such case arises where someone takes a risk like that then we will not leave them alone."

The chief spoke at the signing of a memorandum of understanding with Bait Al Khair, a charity that supports former drug addicts and their families, A 23-year-old Emirati recently died of a heroin overdose in a holding cell. The man's family said he died four months after being arrested on a drug charge, but that he was never convicted by a court. His brother said the family did not understand how he got the heroin inside a cell at the Al Rashidiya police station.

He said his mother and sisters visited him the day before he died and he appeared to be in good health. "This is a very dangerous situation. Being held by police should protect you and not expose you to drugs that could kill you," the brother, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said this week. rbaker@thenational.ae