On 25 June, this newspaper in its lead story, published under the headline ‘Major Prison Shakeup,’ quoting Commissioner General of Prisons Thushara Upuldeniya said,’19 Chief Jailors of Prisons have been transferred with immediate effect, including the Chief Jailor of the Negombo Prison who was transferred to the Dumbara Prison.
The Negombo Prison located in the Gampaha District was in the spotlight recently after a drug racket operating from within the Prison was uncovered. A prison guard from Boossa (Galle) Prison who was nabbed while attempting to smuggle seven grams of heroin for an inmate of the Prison had been interdicted and is being investigated. It may therefore be seen that a major crime in society and also in prison is drugs (narcotics).
Coinciding with these developments, three of the top 11 stories on the Police Website of 25 June were of heroin detections. They were the detection of 10 grams of heroin from a 29-year-old at Dehiwela on Tuesday (23 June), the arrest of a 25-year-old in possession of two grams and 550 milligrams (mg) of heroin at Mulleriyawa also on the same day and the arrest of a 34-year-old at Modera with two grams and 550 mg of heroin also on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Prisons Department data revealed that out of the total number of 29,164 convictions recorded last year, 15,123 or 51.86 per cent of such convictions were narcotic-related convictions.
In the previous year, 2018, of the total number of convictions of 24,852 made. 12,816 or 51.57 per cent were narcotic-related.
Further, the number of narcotic-related cases, 2019 over 2018 increased by 2,307 (18 per cent) to 15,123.In tandem with these developments, the number of convictions, including narcotic-related convictions, in the reference period increased by 4,312 (17.35 per cent) to 29,164. It may be attributed that 53.50 per cent of the increase in all convictions in the review period is related to the increase in drug-related offences only, an increase of 2,307.
Sex wise, the number of male drug offenders in 2019 comprised 14,946, constituting 98.83 per cent of such offenders, while females comprised the balance-142 (1.17 per cent). In the previous year 2018, males comprised 12,674 (98.89 per cent) of such offenders and females the balance-142 (1.11 per cent). In related developments, 2019 over 2018, the number of male drug offenders increased by 2,272 (17.93 per cent) to 14,946 and females by 35 (24.65 per cent) to 177. It may be seen that the rate of acceleration of female drug offenders (24.65 per cent) is greater than those of their male counterparts (17.93 per cent), 2019 over 2018.
With respect to the district wise distribution of drug offenders in 2019, Colombo topped the list, with 7,369 cases. In the previous year 2018 too, it was Colombo which headed this number(7,212). 2019 over 2018, the number of drug offenders from Colombo increased by 157 (2.18 per cent).
Meanwhile, Gampaha which was second in both of those comparative years also saw numbers increase, by 690 (35.94 per cent) to 2,610, 2019 over 2018. Kalutara was third with 811 cases reported in 2019, while it was fourth in the previous year 2018, with 470 cases reported, a 341 (72.55 per cent) increase year-on-year.
In other developments, fourth in 2019 was Galle with 756 drug offenders, while it was third in 2018 with a number of 563, nevertheless an increase of 193 (41.07 per cent) since. Kurunegala was number five in both of those years with the numbers increasing from 538 to 711, an increase of 173 (32.16 per cent) since.
In the meantime, the number of first offenders in the comparative period increased by 1,047 (20.57 per cent) to 6,137, though those of repeat offenders declined 27 (0.53 per cent) to 5,037, while those of recidivists however, increased by 1,340 (51.36 per cent) to 3,949.
From a superficial perspective, the problem of drugs lies apparently with first offenders and recidivists. Ipso facto detection and treatment appear to be the solution, with the former preceding the latter. Stronger border controls seem to be the key as, other than cannabis, also known as marijuana or ganja, is the only indigenous narcotic, while all the other forms of narcotics, be they cocaine, opium or heroin, are not indigenous to the island.