HMP Preston – No Mambulances Since January. Copy that?

The IMB at Preston report the prison has found an effective way to stop inmates getting their hands on psychoactive substances like Spice – by using a photocopier.

Preston staff found the drugs were being smuggled into the jail via the prisoners’ mail, after the paper used to write the letters was soaked in the substance.

The notes could then be ripped up and smoked by the inmates.

In a bid to crack down on the problem, the category B men’s prison began photocopying all mail and keeping the originals locked away.

According to an annual report by the Independent Monitoring Board, the move has produced positive results – with not a single ambulance call-out needed for a prisoner under the influence since the scheme began in January.

The report said: “The Board’s analysis has clearly identified the effectiveness of this precaution in a directly correlated reduction in reported incidents of use of PS (psychoactive substances).

“Since the photocopying was introduced there have been no ambulances called to take a prisoner to hospital under the influence, resulting in savings to the NHS and improvements to prisoner welfare.”

The watchdog admitted the move might not eradicate the problem completely – adding that prisoners would find new ways of getting hold of the drugs – but said it had “demonstrably reduced the availability of PS within the prison”.

The report suggested the use of drug testing devices in prisons to scan incoming mail could prove a more cost-effective and less labour-intensive solution in the long term.

Read the report in full here.

Well-Organised Gang Used Drones to Deliver Drugs to Inmates, Court Told

A “well-organised” gang used drones to fly class A drugs and mobile phones into UK jails, delivering contraband straight to inmates’ windows, a court has heard.

It is alleged that Lee Anslow, while he was a serving prisoner at HMP Hewell in Worcestershire, conspired to set up deliveries at prisons around the country, flown in by a pilot on the outside.

When prison officers raided his cell they found fake food cans packed with cannabis, crack cocaine and sim cards, which prosecutors claim were drone-delivered.

He is charged with being at the centre of a “spider-web of activity”, conspiring with four others to bring drugs, mobile phones and sim cards into jail between April 2016 and June 2017.

Stella Deakin, who is alleged to have driven the drone pilot, and inmates Shane Hadlington, Paul Ferguson and Stefan Rattray are standing trial with Anslow at Birmingham Crown Court.

All five are also charged with bringing Mamba and other psychoactive drugs into British jails between May and June 2017.

The drone operator, Brandon Smith, 24, of Kingstanding Road, Tipton, has already admitted his part in the conspiracy, jurors were told.

opening the case on Thursday, Michelle Heeley, prosecuting, told a jury of nine men and three women they would hear telephone evidence which suggested Anslow was “organising drone deliveries throughout numerous prisons” and that he was linked to jails and inmates in the case.

She added that while he was “not directly seen” retrieving packages, he was “one of the main organisers”.

The Crown has alleged parcels of contraband – worth up to £20,000 a time at prison prices – were delivered, often hanging from a length of weighted fishing line tied to the drone, to cell windows, recovered with a hook, and then sold on the inside.

In April 2017, a drone was seized from a Vauxhall Corsa parked in a lane near HMP Hewell, and its microchip showed it had made eight flights to the jail near Redditch.

Ms Heeley said the prosecution would show how the defendants were “inter-linked”.

Deakin, Hadlington’s girlfriend, was stopped in a Volkswagen Golf carrying a drone after a package was delivered to HMP Wymott, Lancashire, where her partner was serving time.

He had served a sentence alongside Rattray, while Anslow was a former cellmate of Ferguson, the court heard.

Ms Heeley said: “This gang changed phones frequently to try and avoid detection, they were organised and active across the country.”

Drone deliveries were made to HMP Oakwood, HMP Featherstone and HMP Dovegate in Staffordshire, HMP Wymott, HMP Birmingham, HMP Liverpool, HMP Hewell, and HMP Risley in Cheshire.

Ms Heeley told jurors: “These defendants were responsible for the supply of drugs and phones into prisons across the country.

“They used whatever methods they could, including flying drones carrying drugs straight to prison cell windows.

“All of them deny they were part of any agreement to take items in prison. The prosecution say you can be sure they were.”

The Crown’s barrister said: “Once you start putting the pieces together you can see how this group worked, flyers using unregistered phones to link up with prisoners like Anslow. Then arranging flights, using people like Deakin to drive them to prisons, with Hadlington, Ferguson and Stefan Rattray collecting the deliveries on the inside.

“The evidence shows this well-organised group working together.

“Once you have analysed it all, heard from the witnesses and looked at the documents you can be sure they are all guilty as charged.”

Anslow, 31, Ferguson, 27, Deakin, 40, of Boundary Hill, Dudley, Hadlington, 29, of Clay Lane, Oldbury, and Rattray, 28, of Attingham Drive, Dudley, deny all charges.

The trial, estimated to last six weeks, continues.

HMP BIRMINGHAM: BANG TO WRITES

“The first priority of any prison should be to keep those who are held or work there safe, in this regard HMP Birmingham had completely failed.”

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons.

Two weeks ago when the Gate at Birmingham Prison banged shut behind Peter Clarke, the Chief Inspector of Prisons, he must have thought as he walked away to write his Report: ‘how on earth could it have got to this?’

How indeed?

Behind him he left a prison he’d found in “an appalling state” with high violence, widespread bullying, squalid living conditions and poor control by fearful staff, who suffered an arson attack on their supposedly secure car park during the inspection.

Birmingham is only the second jail ever to be assessed by HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) as poor, its lowest assessment, across all key aspects of prison life.

How did we get here?

Until a year or so ago the problem with our prison system had just two basic roots – and to a large extent it still does.

The first is a public who demand ever longer sentences and harsher prison conditions, despite a wealth of evidence that neither reduces crime and serves only to land them with a £15bn a year bill for reoffending.

The second has been the failure of politicians on all sides to rise to the challenge, to stand up to the public and argue for what they know the evidence shows is in everyone’s best interest: reducing reoffending is brought about through engagement, decency, respect, humane conditions and support – all things far too many of our prisons cannot deliver.

Politicians need to educate the public that treating prisoners humanely is not being soft on crime – humane treatment of prisoners has nothing to do with punishment, and everything to do with investing prisoners (whatever they’ve done) with the rights of a human being – and that is always a test that we must pass, not them.

Eighteen months (and three Justice Secretary’s) ago, Liz Truss sought to bring common sense to the law and order debate with a change of direction, the White Paper she published on Prison Reform would have gone a long way towards making real progress, but it was not to be.

Theresa May then went for her infamous walk and the White Paper, much like her parliamentary majority, was tossed in the trash.

But while all that makes for fine theory, it is the dreadful translation of that recipe for chaos into practice that has brought the prison system to its knees.

The minefield that is our prison system today goes back to 2013 when Tory Justice Secretary Chris Grayling  slashed front line prison officer numbers by 7000 (and cut budgets by over £900m) when he introduced VEDS – Voluntary Early Departure Scheme; in effect – redundancy.

And this at a time when prisoner numbers were rapidly increasing too.

When I first learnt of the scale of the frontline cuts Grayling was going to make I fully expected the Prison Officers Association (POA) to mount large scale protests across the prison estate to fight them – but not a bit of it.

There was not even a whimper from the POA – and the reason?

The VEDS package (coupled with the promise by Grayling to end prison privatisation) was so generous that it ‘bought off’ any objection to the staff cuts from the POA – indeed not only were the POA complicit in the staff cuts, but the evidence shows their own bid to run the prison actually involved 150 LESS staff than the winning G4S bid offered – something the POA seem today to have quietly forgotten.

And VEDS really was generous too – Grayling blew more than £50million in just one year sacking staff at Britain’s overcrowded jails; in 2013 the Prison Service spent £56.5million on severance payments – ten times the amount spent in 2012.

Its not rocket science – you can’t run a modern, safe, humane, reforming prison system with a handful of staff and on tuppence ha’penny.

And, its got nothing to do with Birmingham being a private prison – that’s a red herring.

The moral argument is no one should earn a profit from imprisonment – well tell that to the 25,000 prison officers when they collect their ‘profit’ each month.

I’m a pragmatist – I don’t care whose name is over the prison gate, I’m more concerned with what happens to real people who live and work on the other side of it.

The truth is there are good and bad public and private prisons – and don’t forget until we had private prisons in 1992 our prison system was in an even worse state than it is today.

With private prisons came integral sanitation – instead of a bucket prisoners were required to urinate and defecate in and ‘slop out’ – also with private prisons came access to telephones, reduction in mail censorship, evening family visits, drug and alcohol detox, offending behaviour courses and until 1992 time out of cell was 11 hours a week – with the opening of the first private prison that became 11 hours a day.

We have had private prisons for almost 30 years and generally they have worked quite well – the difference now is that the government austerity spending cuts have driven down private sector contracts to such low levels that they are simply unsustainable – we see that with Birmingham (not to mention Liverpool, Nottingham and Exeter) and we saw it too with Prison Service facilities management company Carillion.

There is one thing however about the privatised Birmingham prison that is different to other failing public sector jails – public prisons don’t have a wicket keeper.

When private prisons were introduced Parliament insisted that behind every private prison Governor must sit a ‘Controller’, an experienced public sector prison governor, there to monitor how the contract to run the prison was being delivered – and where they believe the Governor was at risk of losing control, to ‘step in’ and take over.

There were four, full-time, Controllers at HMP Birmingham, Peter Clarke suggested they were all ‘asleep at the wheel’ and that’s impossible to disagree with given that none of them appeared to notice that security, order, safety and control at the prison had been lost.

What is the solution?

Recent speeches by Justice Secretary David Gauke, and his Prisons Minister Rory Stewart, show they have clearly recognised the dire state the prison system is in, and there has been a raft of welcome policy initiatives to address identified problems.

We have seen a commitment to end rough sleeping, a package to steer the vulnerable away from custody, a drive to address the problems at the ten most challenging prisons, and a £9m ‘blitz’ on drugs in prison too.

These are welcome and useful – but they are also piecemeal, disjointed and there is no overall clarity of ‘mission’ that pulls them all together – you won’t reduce reoffending by sticking plasters over prison problems and ignoring the much bigger picture.

What we need now is a Public Inquiry, not just into the debacle that is Birmingham, but the prison system as a whole – defining not only how we get out of this mess but drafting the course of prisons and probation development well into the 2030’s.

We need to clearly define the ‘mission’ of our prison system.

What, exactly, do we as a society want our prison system to deliver in terms of punishment, deterrence, rehabilitation, reducing reoffending and victim care?

Once we have the mission clear, then we just need to pay for its delivery.

At present we are on our EIGHTH Justice Secretary since 2010, and the Prison Service itself in that time has been reorganised four times too – from Prison Service to Correctional Services, to NOMS and now to HMPPS.

Our Prison Service is disorientated by changes of organisation, leadership and the disarray caused by abrupt policy and funding changes that inevitably flow from a change at the top.

It has to stop.

Birmingham prison needs to be the point where a halt is called, where emotion is taken out of the law and order debate, and the future of our prison and probation services are handed over to an impartial public inquiry where evidence and not rhetoric shows what works best for everyone.

Birmingham Prison – A Troubled History

HMP Birmingham, one of the country’s largest jails, has seen soaring drug-fuelled violence and serious disorder in recent years.

In December 2016, while run by G4S, the category B prison was rocked by the worst outbreak of rioting at an English jail in more than two decades.

Inmates caused widespread damage after seizing control of four wings and releasing 500 prisoners from their cells during the disturbance – which lasted for more than 12 hours.

Riot squads had to be deployed to the prison after reports of prisoners setting fire to stairwells and destroying paper records.

One man, believed to be in his 20s, was taken to hospital with a facial injury as well as cuts and bruises, but no prison staff were injured.

Some 240 prisoners were moved out of the prison as a result.

Seven men were later convicted of prison mutiny for their role in the rioting.

The city centre jail, formerly known as Winson Green, can hold up to 1,450 inmates and was taken over by G4S in 2011.

A June 2017 inspection found it had been gripped by drug-fuelled violence, with many inmates feeling “unsafe” behind bars.

The first official report since the riot concluded there was too much fighting on wings, often triggered by easy access to “problematic” new psychoactive substances.

Half of the prisoners surveyed also told inspectors it was “easy to get drugs”, with one in seven reporting they were getting hooked on drugs while in the jail.

The inspection also found the use of mobile phones and drones to arrange and deliver contraband, such as the highly addictive Spice, over the Victorian jail’s high walls was also “a significant threat”.

Three months later staff were involved in another stand-off with inmates following a disturbance.

A number of prisoners refused to return to their cells at the end of an evening.

Specially trained prison staff resolved the incident, which lasted almost seven hours, with no injuries to staff or prisoners.

The prison made headlines again earlier this month after nine cars were torched during an arson attack on the staff car park.

Two masked men used an angle grinder to cut their way into the parking compound before dousing vehicles in flammable liquid.

Further damage was prevented after the men, one of whom was armed with a handgun, were confronted by two prison staff.

The incident came as an unannounced inspection of the prison was carried out.

The Chief Inspector of Prisons later wrote to the Justice Secretary to raise the “significant concerns” about the state of HMP Birmingham.

Peter Clarke took the step of issuing an urgent notification to David Gauke about the jail, warning it had “slipped into crisis” following a “dramatic deterioration” in the last 18 months.

On Monday it was announced HMP Birmingham was being taken back under Government control.

Prison smuggling drone use – up by 1550%

jaildroneDrones are being used to smuggle drugs, mobile phones and other banned items into prisons, it can be revealed.

Figures obtained through a Press Association Freedom of Information (FoI) request show that in 2013 none of the unmanned crafts were discovered in or around prisons in England and Wales.

But in 2014 this rose to two incidents, rocketing to 33 in 2015 – an increase of 1,550%.

Items discovered include just the drones themselves, drugs, mobile phones and chargers, and USB drives.

Mike Rolfe, national chairman elect of the Prison Officers Association (POA), said: “The use of drones to smuggle traditional drugs, NPS (legal highs) and mobiles phones into prisons is of serious concern to the POA.

“The POA have long pushed for increased staffing resource to tackle the security issue that drones present. The additional resource should be used to increase operational staffing within establishments, allowing for the recovery of parcels delivered to prisoners by drones through cell checks and prisoner searches.

“This includes pressing NOMS (National Offender Management Service) for measures to tackle drones such as ground patrols and secure windows on cells.

“The use of illicit mobiles phones allows for increased criminal activity and distress to victims and their families.

“The trafficking of illegal drugs and legal highs hampers rehabilitation breeding violence, bullying and gang culture. All of these issues are on the increase with the use of drones supporting this criminality.”

Prisons most affected by drone incidents between 2014 and 2015 were HMP Onley in Northamptonshire, topping the list with four, followed by Lindholme, Ranby and Swansea on three, and Bedford, Wandsworth and Manchester clocking two each.

Her Majesty’s prisons recording one occurrence include Leicester, The Mount, Whatton, Leeds, Eastwood Park, Liverpool, Norwich, Glen Parva, Huntercombe, Wormwood Scrubs, Full Sutton, Guys Marsh, Long Lartin, Bullingdon, Wealstun and Oakwood.

The Ministry of Justice said: “Incidents involving drones are rare, but we remain constantly vigilant to all new threats to prison security.

“We have introduced new legislation to further strengthen our powers, making it illegal to land a drone in prison or to use a drone to drop in psychoactive substances.

“Anyone found using drones in an attempt to get contraband into prisons can be punished with a sentence of up to two years.

“We take a zero tolerance approach to illicit material in prisons and work closely with the police and CPS to ensure those caught are prosecuted and face extra time behind bars.”

A report published in December by the HM Inspectorate of Prisons noted that illegal drugs, NPS and illicit medications may get into prisons in a number of ways – meaning it is not always possible to quantify exactly how many drugs are making it into prisons.

With supply routes differing from prison to prison, drugs have been discovered being thrown over fences in tennis balls, in large packages fired by catapults and being dropped by drones.

The report states that “easy access to illicit mobile telephones makes it possible to plan the drops carefully”.

Figures revealed by the FoI show that across the incidents at English prisons, drugs were discovered on at least six occasions, mobile phones more than nine times and a drone itself recovered in 19 instances.

One of the biggest finds listed a drone, drugs, mobile phone, a charger and USB cards being discovered in December last year at HMP Oakwood.

Below is a list of the number of times drones were discovered in and around English prisons over a three-year period, as well as a breakdown of the cargo the craft were carrying.

The freedom of information request sent to the Ministry of Justice reveals there was no drone activity reported in 2013, only two instances in 2014 and more than 33 in 2015.

Items discovered in or around the prison range from mobile phones and chargers to drugs and USB flash drives – other incidents have been recorded as either “unknown packages” or “miscellaneous”.

In their response, the Ministry of Justice states that “unknown packages” refers to an item which has been recovered as part of a suspected drone incident – with no specific information recorded on the contents.

And where “miscellaneous” has been recorded, this refers to a reported drone sighting in or around a prison. The MoJ states that where an incident has been listed as this or as drone only, they cannot know if the craft was being used for illegal purposes.

Here is a breakdown of drone incidents between 2013 and 2015, the location and items recovered.

:: April 2014

Ranby HMP – Mobile phones

:: June 2014

Ranby HMP – Drone, mobile phones

:: February 2015

Onley HMP – Unknown package

:: March 2015

Onley HMP – Unknown package

Onley HMP – Miscellaneous

Bedford HMP – Drone, unknown package

:: April 2015

Ranby HMP – Drone, drugs, mobile phones

Leicester HMP – Miscellaneous

:: May 2015

Lindholme HMP – Miscellaneous

:: June 2015

The Mount HMP – Drone, drugs

Swansea HMP – Drone, mobile phones

:: July 2015

Whatton HMP – Drone

Leeds HMP – Drone

:: August 2015

Eastwood Park HMP – Miscellaneous

Liverpool HMP – Drone

Norwich HMP and YOI – Drone

:: September 2015

Onley HMP – Drone and drugs

Glen Parva HMPYOI and RC – Miscellaneous

Lindholme HMP – Miscellaneous

:: October 2015

Lindholme HMP – Drone

Wandsworth HMP – Drone, unknown package

Wandsworth HMP – Miscellaneous

Swansea HMP – Miscellaneous

Bedford HMP – Drone, unknown package

Huntercombe HMP – Miscellaneous

Manchester HMP – Miscellaneous

Wormwood Scrubs HMP – Drone, drugs, mobile phones

Full Sutton HMP – Miscellaneous

:: November 2015

Swansea HMP – Miscellaneous

Manchester HMP – Drone, mobile phones

Guys Marsh HMP – Miscellaneous

Long Lartin HMP – Miscellaneous

:: December 2015

Bullingdon HMP – Drone, drugs, mobile phones

Wealstun HMP – Drone

Oakwood – Drone, drugs, mobile phone, charger, USB cards

Legal highs and drones targeted in prison crackdown

jaildroneSmugglers attempting to sneak so-called legal highs into prisons will face up to two years in jail under a Government crackdown.

A new law will also target those using drones to fly materials into jails.

Last year authorities recorded 250 incidents of new psychoactive substances being thrown over prison walls but until now police have had no power to act against those caught in the act because the drugs themselves are not yet illegal.

Now ministers have signed an order to close the loophole.

From November 10 smugglers who throw anything over prison walls will face arrest, while those found to have smuggled packages could face a custodial sentence of up to two years.

Prisons minister Andrew Selous said: “These ‘lethal highs’ fuel violence in our prisons including brutal assaults on staff and other prisoners. It’s got to stop.

“That is why we’re closing this dangerous loophole in the law so perpetrators will now face up to two years in prison.

New psychoactive substances can cause violent, unpredictable behaviour and lead to prison assaults, the Ministry of Justice said.

Earlier this year it emerged that the drugs, which mimic the effects of traditional banned substances such as cannabis, are suspected to have played a part in the deaths of at least 19 prisoners.

The Government announced a wider crackdown on legal highs earlier this year, with sellers of the drugs facing up to seven years in prison under a new law.

Ian Bickers, governor of HMP Wandsworth in south-west London, said: “These drugs cause huge problems in prisons, fuelling violence and bad behaviour among prisoners.

“They are frequently smuggled in through packages thrown over the wall. Anything that can be done to crack down on this is very welcome.”

The new offence will also cover the flying of items into prisons by a drone or the landing of the gadget itself within prison grounds, regardless of whether it is transporting contraband.

Earlier this year Eve Richard, a senior analyst at the National Offender Management Service (Noms) intelligence unit, was reported to have described the use of drones to drop items into prisons as an “emerging threat”.