JOSHUA CAMERON was 19 when he overdosed on a cocktail of prescription drugs in his cell at the maximum security Long Bay Correctional Complex.

Tests would later show he had four drugs – the painkillers codeine, morphine, paracetamol and tramadol – in his system, any one of which could have killed him. He was being prescribed paracetamol at the time.

December 21, 2008: The tricks used to get a hit in prison

Postscript: February 16, 2009
A 19-year-old prisoner did not intend to commit suicide when he took a range of prescription drugs at prison where officers admitted there was an open trade in medications, a coroner has found.

Joshua Cameron, who was not prescribed three of the four painkillers found in his system, was found dead in his cell on June 28, 2006.

A coronial inquiry into his death had heard there was an open trade in prescription medications in Metropolitan Special Programs Centre but Coroner Paul McMahon did not find enough evidence to recommend that any of the other inmates be charged.

Delivering his findings on Friday, Mr McMahon did not make any recommendations against the Department of Corrective Services despite officers admitting they knew about the trade but could do little because of the lack of staff.

Speaking afterwards, Joshua’s mother, Sheryl, maintained that the department had failed her child.

“There’s got to have been something they could have done to make sure another family doesn’t have to go through with this,” she said.

September 24, 2006: Careers ruined: guards who feel like prisoners

JOHN Heffernan spent more than half his life managing prisoners. As the former  governor of prisons in Tamworth, Glen Innes and Grafton, John Heffernan  knew how to handle “disruptive” inmates. So he was quick to recognise  when the same tactics were being used on him.

I was part of a team of reporters at The Sydney Morning Herald who looked at the state’s prison system. We found that inmate numbers in the state have exceeded 10,000 a year and are forecast to reach 12,300 by 2015, with predictions that a new prison will be required every two years.

In addition, each prisoner costs the state about $73,000 a year, and the total cost of Corrective Services was $883 million in 2007-08, according to the latest Auditor-General’s report. The Wellington Correctional Centre, built last year, cost $125 million. Read the main story here.

A punishing regime

NSW jails are the most violent in the country. Former inmates talks about the harsh reality of prison life.Read more here.

Watch the video of Frank and ‘Douggie’ Walsh here.

More prisoners returning to jail

NSW has the highest reoffending rates in the country and is unlikely to meet its own targets to reduce this, according to prison experts. Read more here.

Prison watchdogs lose their teeth

Hard time … former official visitors Michael Brereton, Ray Jackson and Margaret Holm believe the position has become almost meaningless.

THE NSW Government has quietly gutted all of the oversight bodies meant to police the state’s jails over the past five years, according to prison experts. Read more here.