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Canberra Today 8°/10° | Monday, July 4, 2022 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Prison staff shock: alleged drug parties and cover ups

The Alexander Maconochie Centre… “There’s nothing worse when you are locking people up, knowing your colleagues should be behind bars as well,” says Tim Rust.

Prison boss warns staff after drug party allegations

In an explosive account of how some Alexander Maconochie Centre staff behave after hours, a story confirmed by serving and former prison officers, reporter BELINDA STRATHORN reveals claims of drug parties and cover ups.

A FORMER senior director of operations at Canberra’s jail has blown the lid on long-rumoured, cocaine-fuelled drug parties attended by prison officers.

Tim Rust… “There were a lot of things going on there but nothing was getting done to deal with it.”

“CityNews” has also confirmed the existence of photographs showing fraternisation between a prison officer and a female former detainee while allegedly using cocaine. 

Tim Rust, formerly a senior director of operations at the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC), is lifting the veil on what is believed to be a long-standing culture of drug taking among some prison officers and has accused senior officers of turning a blind eye to it. 

“There were a lot of things going on there but nothing was getting done to deal with it,” Mr Rust says.

Over weeks of investigation, “CityNews” spoke to a number of prison staff – serving and non-serving – who, while reluctant to be named, confirmed Mr Rust’s assertions of the widespread use of drugs among prison officers, cocaine parties and the culture of silence from management.

Mr Rust, 53, a bachelor of social science – security and counter terrorism,  confirmed that the drug culture was already well established before he was employed at the AMC as head of security in 2017.

He says it was widely known among prison staff that private drug parties were being frequented by a core group of 10 prison officers.

“CityNews” understands that the officers, nicknamed the “Bali 10”, have participated in at least three major cocaine-fuelled parties outside of work.

“To my knowledge, all the staff that used to attend such parties, and who may still do so, are still employed at the AMC,” says Mr Rust, who resigned from the prison in April last year.

Through a colleague who had attended one of the drug parties, Mr Rust became aware of the extent of drug use among prison officers.

“I became privy to the tales of cocaine parties through a few trusted staff who felt that the stories were being deliberately suppressed,” says Mr Rust.

According to Mr Rust, the officer had been invited to one of the parties, and offered cocaine but declined it and left.

“He said that cocaine was being used on the tables, it was being snorted by the staff there,” says Mr Rust.

“He was able to name the staff – there were 10 of them – we know who they are and he put it in an integrity report, and it went nowhere.”

Mr Rust claims that two internal integrity reports by officers who had attended the drug parties were submitted but the matter was never fully investigated by prison management.

“There was never any known investigation conducted, however rudimentary such an investigation may have looked,” says Mr Rust. 

Mr Rust, who has left corrective services and now lives in NZ, also revealed that a male prison officer and an ex-female detainee entered into an affair that is also alleged to have involved drug taking. “CityNews” is aware of photographs that support this revelation. 

Mr Rust alleges that after a subsequent conviction, early in 2020, the female returned to the prison and, on arrival at the AMC, asked to see the security staff.

“She asked to be taken to an interview room and while there identified to them that her mobile phone had incriminating evidence about an officer,” Mr Rust says.

“I wasn’t there in the room…I was exposed to everything that happened afterwards. As the security manager I’m asking a lot of questions about the evidence and where it is.

“They retrieved the phone from her property and she provided them with access… on the phone were photographs of one of our officers using cocaine with her dressed in a prison [officer’s] uniform, and other imagery showing the party and what was going on.”

“CityNews” cannot confirm cocaine was being used in the photograph. 

Mr Rust claims that the female detainee was somebody that the prison officer was “having an affair with”. 

“He started it, apparently, in the jail and when she was released carried on seeing her,” says Mr Rust.

One of the detainee’s images depicts her wearing a prison officer’s uniform and hat.

“Obviously something has happened that she felt aggrieved about and she decided to make a stand, and dob him in.”

“CityNews” understands one of the detainee’s images depicts her wearing a prison officer’s uniform and hat. In another image, the prison officer appears to be holding a bag of white powder with a digitally captioned expression on the photo reading: “F… it 1 more line”, and there is understood to be another image depicting the couple holding drinks.

Mr Rust says the prison officer in question was placed on a 12-month suspension on full pay. 

“Such incriminating evidence would, in most circumstances, be an immediate cessation of employment,” says Mr Rust.

“But he wasn’t, he was just stood down, and everything went underground.”

According to Mr Rust, the phone is also believed to have contained a series of text messages between the female former detainee and a second prison officer discussing the procurement of cocaine.

The fate of the phone has been the subject of much speculation. Seized by prison authorities following the detainee’s admission, it was confiscated, screenshots of the photos were taken and printed, and the phone was kept in a secure location, Mr Rust says.

After that nothing seemed to happen and the phone just kind of vanished,” says Mr Rust.

“I was hoping this event might start a formal inquiry that could identify these people and get them out.

“As you can imagine, staff taking cocaine – a very expensive drug in jail where there are lots of gangsters who are exposed to the drugs and sell the drugs – it exposes you to all sorts of shenanigans.”

Sometime later, Mr Rust understands that the images on the phone were wiped.

“It was discovered that the phone had been accessed on several occasions and the images deleted,” says Mr Rust.

“CityNews” believes copies of the images still exist and have made their way to the ACT Integrity Commission.

“By November, 2020, I was aware that pieces of evidence had been saved by staff and had been sent to the Integrity Commission,” Mr Rust says.

“It was evident there was some movement, and people involved in the retrieval and processing of the evidence and interviewing of the prisoner, were interviewed.

“And there it seemed to end… it was all very hush-hush.

We know that the information was put out there but I don’t know why it hasn’t exploded into something big, and why heads haven’t rolled?”

“Wrongdoing, especially that committed by a small number of prison officers, brings the whole service into disrepute.

Separately, “CityNews” is also aware of what’s been described as a “shocking” photograph purporting to show seven off-duty prison officers – five males and two females – partying in a spa bath together. The group includes very senior personnel and at least one junior female. 

Mr Rust says prison management has appeared unwilling to further investigate the behaviour of officers who are bound up in these allegations.

“There’s staff there that are clearly exposed to things and getting away with it,” says Mr Rust.

“Suppressing information and wrong doing, especially that committed by a very small number of prison officers, brings the whole service into disrepute and tarnishes the outstanding job the majority do every day, and that is exactly what senior figures in Corrections have done.”

Mr Rust believes at the time some of these matters were raised, prison authorities would have been seeking to avoid adverse publicity given the approaching 2020 ACT election.

He says there were “lots of ugly rumours” – one of which alleged management had been under political pressure, with an election coming up, to ensure there were no problems at the jail. 

“Was it a coincidence that this incident happened and got hushed up,” wonders Mr Rust. 

“The AMC is an ugly place to work, with staff who are not fully supported.

He also provided “CityNews” with an insight into what the prison was like during his time working there. He says he was disturbed by the number of violent assaults inflicted by prisoners on other prisoners. 

The number of serious prisoner-on-prisoner assaults was significant,” says Mr Rust.

“Prisoners were making weapons and were going into other prisoners’ cells without any oversight from staff, and bashing other prisoners senseless.

“I’m surprised that somebody hasn’t died up until now.”

Drawing on his almost two decades worth of experience in corrections facilities, Mr Rust characterised the AMC as an “ugly” place to work, with staff who are not fully supported, and malpractice permeating high levels of management within the prison. 

“You go to work to do the right thing and be an officer of integrity, and you are surrounded by staff doing the wrong thing,” says Mr Rust.

“I’ve done prison work for 24 years and there’s nothing worse when you are locking people up, knowing your colleagues should be behind bars as well.”

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Belinda Strahorn

Belinda Strahorn

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One Response to Prison staff shock: alleged drug parties and cover ups

Julie Tongs says: May 12, 2022 at 7:58 pm

This happened over 2 years ago and the government authorities did nothing thinking that it wouldn’t surface but it did it’s common knowledge in the community so I find it very hard to believe that the people in power didnt know theres no transparency or accountability


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