By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.
In the confines of a prison, where everyday luxuries are at best a fantasy, the temptation to smuggle in goods is profound.
In the desperation for creature comforts, many of which in prisons are deemed prohibited items, smugglers turn to all kinds of inventive ways to traffic in banned goods.
Indeed, the risk of trafficking contraband into places of detention is high – those caught face the most severe of penalties.
Nevertheless, this was not the case for one South Australian prison guard, who felt an overbearing sense of loyalty to deliver prohibited items to the prisoners he guarded.
Former South Australian Prison Guard Used to Conceal Contraband in Cereal Boxes to Smuggle Items to Prisoners
It is reported that in 2019, Michael Charles Asker, a South Australian prison guard working at Yatala Labour Prison, used to conceal contraband in cereal boxes into the high-security jail in order to serve his prisoners.
Unbeknownst to Mr Asker at the time, however, the 66-year-old prison guard was being watched by investigators.
Surveillance by police revealed that on one occasion in September 2019, Mr Asker met a man and was handed a hamburger bag, inside of which were the prescription drug Suboxone and glue – which was used to seal cereal boxes to conceal the contraband.
Mr Asker then smuggled those prohibited goods into the Yatala Labour Prison.
He was paid $250 for the task.
On another occasion in December 2019, Mr Asker was given another parcel to smuggle into the prison, for which he was traded $500 in a coffee cup.
The package contained methamphetamine.
However, in this instance, the prison guard, who is also a former Army veteran who helped rescue victims of Cyclone Tracy in 1974, was caught and arrested by police.
Former Prison Guard Now Faces Being Jailed Alongside Prisoners He Used to Guard
Last week, Mr Asker’s case was heard in the District Court, leading prosecutors to call for the former prison guard to be jailed alongside the prisoners he used to guard.
“The only appropriate penalty is an immediate custodial sentence,” prosecutors told the court.
However, Michael Jandy, defence counsel for Mr Asker, upheld to the court that his client, who had served as a prison guard for almost 30 years, deserved a “second chance”.
He urged Judge Leisl Chapman to suspend any sentence or order home detention.
Mr Jandy told the court his client had partaken in the smuggling incidents due to an imprudent sense of allegiance to prisoners.
“He accepts there was some malice towards his employer, perhaps there was misguided loyalty to the prisoners, and their families on the outside,” Mr Jandy said.
“He accepts that money was attractive, but it’s not what got him into it.”
Mr Jandy said his client, unaware of being under surveillance by police, did not know what was contained in the second package before his arrest by officers.
Former Prison Guard Felt “Disturbed” By Treatment of Prisoners
Inside the court, Mr Jandy also said his client’s time serving in the Army incited an “instinct for humanity”, which led him to toil as more of a social worker.
“He was indeed criticised consistently by colleagues for being too much of a social worker,” Mr Jandy told the court.
As such, he became a “bleeding heart”.
Mr Jandy said the ex-guard often felt “disturbed” by the manner in which he would see prisoners being treated.
“He would witness blind bureaucracy put before the welfare of prisoners and he sought to do what he could in that regard,” he said.
“He was a proactive worker, he was driven, and he instructs that he was interested in the welfare of the prisoners – it might be put that he was overly invested.”
Judge Chapman will sentence Mr Asker in May.
In NSW, it is against the law to smuggle contraband into a jail, and if you are caught smuggling prohibited goods, you can face very serious criminal penalties including jail time and heavy fines.
Even if you are caught simply attempting to smuggle prohibited goods into a place of detention, you can be found guilty of an offence.
NSW prisons prohibit a range of goods from entering the grounds.
These goods include drugs, alcohol, tobacco, mobile phones, syringes, lighters, weapons and computers.
Section 253C(1) Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Act 1999 (NSW) provides a penalty of up to 6-months jail and/or $1,100 fine for smuggling or trying to smuggle alcohol into prison.
section 253 also provides for up to 2-years jail or $5,500, or both, for smuggling or trying to smuggle prohibited drugs into prison.
For smuggling or trying to smuggle a mobile phone or part of a phone into prison, the penalty goes up to $5,500 fine or 2-years jail, or both under section 253F Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Act 1999 (NSW).
Have questions? Speak to our criminal lawyers from Sydney over a free case appraisal.