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Conned correctional officer resigns after unwittingly bringing cannabis into prison with inmate’s birthday meal

Oct 27, 2022 | Media Partners, The GrowthOp

This post is presented by our media partner The Growth Op
View the original article here.

Man to escape additional punishment if he does not reoffend

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Nice guys do finish last — or at least out of work — as a 66-year-old prison guard learned after trying to do a good deed and deliver a birthday meal to an inmate.

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The issue was that the meal delivered to the Rimutaka Prison in Lower Hutt, N.Z. consisted of more than tomato sauce, cheese and sweet and sour pork, according to Stuff.

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Cannabis proved an extra ingredient, supplied to the guard by the family of the inmate, who the worker reportedly befriended after learning both men were from the Cook Islands.

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With New Zealander voters narrowly rejecting the prospect of legalizing recreational cannabis in 2020 — 50.7 per cent voted no — cannabis continues to be off-limits. Penalties associated with weed range from a NZ$500 ($395) fine for possession to a 14-year jail term for its supply or manufacture, notes information from the New Zealand Police.

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Although the guard was not charged in connection with the failed, inadvertent cannabis delivery, he was cited for smuggling the food, Stuff reports. As such, he opted to resign following an 18-year career as a correctional officer.

The guard’s lawyer recently told the Hutt Valley District Court “the inmate took advantage of the defendant and manipulated him by talking about his family and parents from the islands,” according to the New Zealand Herald.

The prisoner asked the guard to bring in the meal and despite knowing it was against the rules, the correctional officer decided to do so, Stuff reports. He picked up the meal from the prisoner’s family on a Sunday after church and reportedly took the package to work the next morning on Mar. 28, his lawyer said, acknowledging that his client was a trusting man who had been naive.

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But upon putting the meal through the scanner, the cannabis was detected.

In a statement, corrections chief custodial officer Neil Beales reported that staff and visitors are not allowed to bring in food items for prisoners unless they have written permission from the prison director. “Providing unauthorized items, including food, is an example of conduct that falls below our expectations,” Beales added, per the New Zealand Herald.

Correctional facilities across the country have a number of security measures in place to help protect staff, visitors and inmates, including X-ray scanners, walk-through metal detectors, camera surveillance, searches of staff, contractors and visitors and detector dog teams.

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During the guard’s first court appearance just days after the incident, though, he pleaded guilty to breaching the Corrections Act by bringing to the prison a bag containing sweet and sour pork, grated cheese and six bottles of tomato sauce, the New Zealand Herald reports.

The judge pointed out that although the guard had not been prosecuted for mistakenly smuggling the weed, he had already lost his job and, heavily involved in the church and the community, would likely suffer more because of the inevitable publicity.

The man must return to court in nine months, and if he does not reoffend in the interim, no further punishment will be imposed, per Stuff.

The New Zealand incident is certainly not the first attempt at smuggling pot into prison. Failed bids have included delivery by a pigeon in Peru, among baby clothes in Argentina, by glasses of frappé and several straws in Cyprus and by bottles of body lotion in Guyana.

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Meals and marijuana have also crossed paths, sometimes with unintended and unwelcome results.

This past April, a bride and her wedding caterer found themselves in deep trouble in Florida, where recreational cannabis is illegal, after a prank to spike some dishes caused several wedding guests to fall ill and the police to be called.

A similarly questionable end to a meal occurred in India in the summer of 2020. That’s when an Indian family consumed a dish containing what a neighbour assured the cook was methi (fenugreek), but, in fact, turned out to be dried cannabis leaves. All six family members went to a local hospital for treatment.

Also two years ago in B.C., several people at the wake of a former restaurant worker, complete with a potluck featuring homemade dishes, had to take a trip to the emergency room after unwittingly consuming cannabis-containing treats.

We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with feedback and story tips at thegrowthop@postmedia.com

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