An Illawarra criminal solicitor has cast doubt on the effectiveness of a Corrective Services NSW crackdown on women found smuggling contraband to incarcerated relatives.
Yesterday, the department warned that women caught smuggling drugs to inmates were being criminally charged and banned from entering a prison for two years.
Corrective Services NSW Commissioner Peter Severin said 2013 had been a record for visitor searches at the state's prisons, with more than 97,000 searches conducted by a specialist squad of officers and sniffer dogs, the Security Operations Group (SOG).
During the year, SOG officers seized a total of 213 grams of powder, 323 grams of cannabis and 1063 tablets before the drugs could enter the prison system.
At South Coast Correctional Centre, near Nowra, an 18-year-old woman was intercepted with a mobile phone in her bra as she went to visit her 41-year-old inmate father last November.
Corrective Services banned her from prison visits for 12 months.
At the same centre, a 20-year-old woman was intercepted as she came to visit a 21-year-old male friend last month.
When questioned, the woman removed from her bra a balloon containing tablets.
Officers contacted police, who charged her.
The woman has since been banned from prison visits until at least December next year.
However, Kernaghan and Associates criminal law defence litigation solicitor James Howell said it made little sense for the department to focus on banning people from visiting inmates when the penalties handed out by the courts were likely to be enough of a disincentive.
"It's difficult to determine the effectiveness of such measures when ... of greater concern would be the criminal ramifications of bringing such contraband into correctional centres," he said.
"It's essentially double dipping in a way that the person committing such an offence is likely to be punished by the courts and also punished by corrective services by not being able to visit their friends and family."
Mr Severin said he was aware many women visiting prisoners were being manipulated.
"We know these women are often pressured into bringing in the drugs for their fathers, sons, husbands or boyfriends," he said.
"I cannot warn these women strongly enough: the price they will pay is far too high. It includes facing criminal charges and being banned from visiting inmates for up to two years, and the associated trauma that can cause for their families."