The Maldives Correctional Service (MCS) has seized a large amount of drugs and mobile phones from the Maafushi jail, custodial jail in Malé and Himmafushi low security ‘Asseyri’ jail.
At a press briefing yesterday (November 2), Superintendent of Prisons Mohamed Asif said MCS has been “continuously searching” jails for contraband as part of wider efforts to improve security.
“After searching Maafushi jail for the past three weeks, we have seized 52 mobile phones and 35 phone batteries,” Asif revealed.
In addition, MCS found 32 chargers, more than 33 SIM cards, and 200 packets of illicit narcotics from Maafushi jail cells, Asif added.
Smuggled items confiscated from the Malé custodial jail include three mobile phones, two chargers, two phone batteries, one SIM card, and one packet of a substance believed to be drugs, Asif said.
“In the same operation, we searched Asseyri jail and found four mobile phones, three chargers, and one phone battery and one SIM card,” he said.
Prison guards checked jail cells at random, Asif noted, praising the “hard work” of MCS employees.
Moreover, a mechanism has been put in place for prison guards to check jail cells once a month, Asif continued, conceding that prevention of smuggling items into prisons completely would prove difficult.
“However, we have commenced numerous different efforts to minimise the extent of smuggling,” he said.
A joint investigation with the Maldives Police Service was underway to determine how the contraband was smuggled into the three jails, Asif said.
The search operation follows the escape of two dangerous convicts from Maafushi jail last month. Police revealed that the pair had sawn off 22 bars on a window in the bathroom of cell number 14 in unit nine of Maafushi jail.
Following the capture of the fugitives, Home Minister Umar Naseer said a dog squad would be used periodically in preventing the entry of illicit drugs into Maafushi jail.
In addition to a new 20-foot wall, surveillance cameras, increased lighting and automatic locks will be used to strengthen security at the jail, Naseer said.
Between 50 and 100 inmates will work for pay in constructing the wall. The MVR4.2 million (US$272,000) wall will stretch for 1.4 kilometers and is expected to be completed by the end of 2015.
Asif meanwhile told the press yesterday that the lack of an outer wall allows access to Maafushi jail on all sides, noting that construction of the 20-foot wall was underway.
Asked about the involvement of prison guards in smuggling drugs and phones, Asif said MCS has started searching guards and employees before they enter the jail.
Asif contended that contraband could be smuggled without the involvement of prison guards or staff, referring to items being thrown into the custodial jail in Malé.
A net has been put up around the perimeters, Asif said, which was, however, “not a total solution.”
Both visitors and prison guards have been caught while attempting to smuggle drugs and phones, he noted.
In May, a police officer was caught while attempting to smuggle drugs into the custodial detention centre in the capital.
In January, police seized mobile phones and drugs from Maafushi jail while a 20-year-old and a minor were arrested in February for attempting to smuggle drugs into the jail.