Sex, drugs and lovesick staff: How inmates run wild
Alan Butler's relaxed life on the NSW North feels a world away from the 32 years he spent working prisons. A specialist in stamping out drugs and corruption, he spent most of his career at Sydney's notorious Long Bay prison, retiring in 2018. He's never strip-searched a man since.
An image of the Long Bay prison visiting area flashes up on the screen.
The CCTV camera is trained on a small group of tables and chairs.
An inmate in prison greens walks into frame and waits at one of the tables.
A woman sits down. They look pleased to see one another.
They hold hands.
Without flinching, the woman bends her arm and shoots a powerful surge of class A heroin straight into her boyfriend's arm.
"The woman came in and she had a syringe attached to the inside of her arm and a tube with a butterfly needle in the end of it," former corrections officer Alan Butler tells On Guard.
"She held hands with the inmate over the table, she inserted the butterfly needle into the vein in his hand. And then she bent her arm. And that pushed the plunger down and shot him up.
"Well, he came out of the visit to the stripsearching area and he was just off his face and they couldn't work out why so they went back over the footage and found how they did it … he was absolutely off his chops!"
The shocking moment, caught on video, is testament to the myriad of ingenious and mind-boggling ways drugs and other contraband are smuggled into prisons.
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In his 32 years in the NSW corrections industry, Butler has seen them all and devoted years to fighting prison corruption.
He believes if contraband makes it in, there's almost always a staff member who's been paid or otherwise manipulated to bring it in - and of course there's no drug more powerful than love to convince a straight-laced officer to bend the rules.
Butler saw numerous staff affairs with prisoners.
"We've had male staff fall in love with female inmates and give everything to that female inmate, as they would with someone on the outside. You can't stop people from falling in love but we've got to be aware that these people, once they do fall in love with an inmate will do anything for them, just like you or I would do anything for our spouse," says Butler.
"There was one (inmate), she was a murderer ... she'd killed a man -- her partner. And this officer fell in love with her.
"He was bringing in cosmetics and other little luxuries for her. But contraband is anything that's not approved by the governor of the gaol, that's not prescribed. So whether it was a stick of lipstick or an ounce of heroin, it doesn't matter. It's still trafficking and it's still corruption."
The officer was fired and his family split up, once the affair was exposed. However, Butler believes he has continued corresponding with the female prisoner, while she serves out her life sentence.
Serial rapist and child sex offender, Graham Loughlan Harrison, was also expert at winning over the female staff, and caused an officer at Lithgow Correctional Centre to be stood down when she was caught bringing in contraband for him. "The female case notes [on Harrison] were glowing, everything was hunky dory. The male case notes were written to say [he was] 'manipulative', 'sneaky', he was trying to do this and that. So you could see there was something odd going on."
However, inmates also pressure friends and family on the outside to bring in contraband.
"I've seen drugs hidden in babies' nappies, a baby's bottle, artificial limbs. I got in trouble back in my early days because I made an inmate take off his leg because I knew they'd stuffed drugs into his leg but I was accused of violating his human rights," says Butler, 62.
"The majority of drugs still come in through the visits. There's the balloons in the mouth. So the balloons would be hidden in a (female) visitor's bra and then they would transfer it to their mouth, kiss the inmate and he will swallow it. Then the inmate will either regurgitate it or pass it through. It's pretty disgusting."
It's for this reason Butler is a great supporter of new technology X-ray scanners being introduced across NSW, which are able to detect and generate an image of contraband concealed within a body cavity.
The technology also reduces the need for strip searches which can result in officers accidentally being stabbed with syringes.
"One of my previous jobs was with the Commissioner's office with visitors who had committed (contraband) offences, and as a result we'll put a ban on them attending the jail.
"On a number of occasions the visitor has been relieved that they don't have to do visits because they're not being pressured to bring in contraband," says Butler.
"We used to have standovers of inmates. Say you're a nobody, you're in for shoplifting or something and you're being asked by a jail heavy to get your girlfriend or your mother to bring drugs in.
"And they threaten the inmate, 'we're going to rape your mother' if she doesn't do it. So there's a constant threat of violence for minor offenders."
While Butler worked predominantly in Sydney prisons Long Bay and Parklea Correctional Centres, he also joined ICAC in the late 90s to investigate corrupt officers.
Butler worked on the ICAC investigation into former officer Robert Brown.
Brown was never charged with any criminal offences however he was exposed as having corrupt dealings with several inmates, including Nasser Kalache.
Here's a telephone call ICAC intercepted between Kalache and Brown which indicates Kalache pressuring Brown to help him trade drugs from inside prison.
One conversation ran as follows:
Brown: "You wanted me to contact you."
Kalache: "Yeah. Come past there. I gotta give you something.
Brown: Got to give me something?
Brown: Depends on what it is.
Kalache: It's a box. All right?
Brown: You see, the thing is I, you know.
Kalache: Getting hard is it?
Brown: I told him, your mate, now it's hard to get in f**kin gear.
Brown: I mean, they.re f**kin, they're searching the women's bags and everything.
Kalache: Fair enough.
Brown: Oh mate. It's real bad since that f**kin' Sua was on TV.
Brown: Remember Sua?
Brown: He's f**ked it up for everybody.
Kalache: Hop over anyway. When you have got time.
Brown: Be in in the morning and I'll come and see you."
The reference to Sua refers to prison officer Josh Sua whose corrupt conduct was also uncovered by an ICAC investigation.
Sua was found to be involved in the trafficking of drugs and other contraband into the Remand Centre at Long Bay and Parramatta Correctional Centre as well as instigating an inmate on inmate assault. However he was never charged with a criminal offence.
The investigation found Sua was employed and received regular payments from two crooks, drug trafficker and pimp Joseph Attallah - who operated in Sydney's Bankstown - and well-known Sydney crime figure Kostas Kontorinakis.
"There were some inmates that were attempting to get family members into the department. I don't know how many were actually successful," Butler said.
"But I know the ones that we uncovered where the individuals just couldn't help big noting themselves about who they knew. And that would be picked up at the (prison training) Academy. But the threat is there that organised crime can get a sleeper in there.
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"We detected some major criminal organisations such as OMCG (outlaw motorcycle gangs) that attempted to have staff infiltrate the prison service. Also some of the Middle Eastern inmates have been linked to a number of potential recruits that have been detected during screening processes.
Retiring in 2018, Butler has no doubt corruption is still rife in Australia's prison system.
"While there's a demand there will always be someone willing to meet it. There's thousands to be made by doing this stuff."
Originally published as Sex, drugs and lovesick staff: How inmates run wild