Homelessness, sex and drugs: Find out about life of a highly educated ice addict

Once an inmate owns a syringe in a NSW Auatralian prison it becomes like a “library card with people lining up to use it”, an inquiry into the drug ice has heard.

Identified only as Mr PG, the highly-educated former prisoner who worked on the movies Babe and Star Wars, said his life fell apart in his 40s. This triggered a four-year cycle of depression, homelessness, sex and drug use, including ice (crystal methamphetamine).

Within a day of being incarcerated, he realised “drugs of any kind were available to me anytime, including pot, ice and any class five chemical”.

Mr PG said an inmate at Parklea Correctional Facility regularly smuggled 20 “Mintie-sized bags” of drugs from a large female visitor who would “secrete them” in folds of her skin.

Drug use was everywhere, he told the Special Commission of Inquiry into the Drug “Ice” in Sydney on Wednesday. To protect his identity, only audio of his testimony was broadcast.

Mr PG said inmates would line up to inject drugs and share a needle.

“The only choice that inmates had was to rinse their syringe with a brief squirt of Fincol [a disinfectant] and move on to the next user of the syringe,” he said.

“The value of a syringe is enormous, with one having sold for several hundred dollars. Once you have a syringe, it became a library card with people lining up to use it.”

Justice Health NSW, the government agency in charge of prisoners’ medical needs, estimates two thirds of inmates have a substance abuse problem and are unable to access alcohol and drug treatment programs.

Counsel assisting, Sally Dowling, SC, said about 42 per cent of the prison population – around 6500 – entered with an active crystal methamphetamine use, according to 2015 data.

Justice Health wants prisons to provide clean needles and said Fincol’s efficacy is dubious. NSW Corrective Services has rejected a needle exchange.

Mr PG said not once in custody was he “offered or provided access to any alcohol and other drug counselling”. Nor was he offered assistance from a psychologist, psychiatrist, or counsellor, despite periods when he contemplated suicide.

Assistant commissioner of Corrective Services NSW Dr Anne-Marie Martin conceded that access to cognitive behavioural therapy was not allocated according to the health needs of inmates who were abusing substances.

Instead it was targeted at those who were at medium to high risk of reoffending.

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Asked if that meant access to treatment was unavailable for other inmates, she said: “Yes it was very limited.”

Mr PG was asked if he received detox services after he was arrested in December 2015.

He replied if that meant being “left in a room on your own wearing the dressing gown .. and clothing that I wore as I was arrested. Not having showered for seven days … no attendance by any officer … If that is rated as detox for seven days, yes ma’am.”

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Henry Sapiecha

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