“MASS INTOXIFICATION” At Cumbria Prison – As Prisons Minister Rory Stewart Does A Photo Call At Bristol Prison 250 Miles Away

In their latest annual report published today 1st March 2019 the IMB at HMP Haverigg, Cumbria’s only prison says there is continuing concern about the impact of widespread use of Psychoactive Substances (PS) not only on those addicted to its use but on the general prison population, staff and but also on the overall regime.

The report is published on the day that the Prisons’s MP – and Prisons Minister – Rory Stewart – spends the day 250 miles away at Bristol Prison.

Death risk from Psychotic Drugs

 It is disturbing to note in two reports from the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, that PS may have been a contributory factor in two deaths in custody which occurred during the year within weeks of each other. Near fatalities in the latter half of the year have only been prevented by the swift and effective action of officers and healthcare staff.

Increased surveillance systems initially disrupted the supply chain of illicit drugs into the prison, but access to PS resumed, despite the best efforts of the management.

IMB Chair Lynne Chambers explains

“The Board has observed on a weekly and sometimes daily basis, the effects of the use of illicit substances, and on one day in November, when seventeen prisoners were found to be under the influence of PS in a ‘mass intoxication’

The impact on the populations of South and West Cumbria of the concentration of Northwest Ambulances at the prison throughout that day is likely to have been significant”.

Emotional challenges

The geographical isolation of HMP Haverigg, the limitations of public transport and an underdeveloped road network present both practical and emotional challenges to prisoners and their families in maintaining links. However, the Board commends the innovative work of the “Visitors and Children’s Support Group” in hosting a range of events for Families, Lifer/Long term prisoners, Enhanced prisoners, and the Kainos “Challenge to Change” programme.

Although tackling the use of PS and other illicit substances, has, necessarily, been of high priority throughout the reporting year, the Board has, nonetheless, observed the good progress and positive impact of the Rehabilitative Culture initiative on the prison population.

Mark Leech, Editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales, said it was a “shocking report”.

Mr Leech said: “Rory Stewart, who is not only a Cumbrian Member of Parliament but also Prisons Minister, should not be all smiles and shaking hands 250 miles away outside Bristol Prison – but right outside Haverigg main gate answering questions as to what on earth he is going to do to correct the defects identified in this shocking report.

“It seems Rory Stewart couldn’t care less”

Key Report Findings  

Are prisoners treated fairly?  

The effectiveness of the Rehabilitative Culture and Restorative Justice initiatives have had a significant impact on the outcome of adjudications with the IMB receiving just two applications from prisoners arising from this process. The Independent Monitoring Board is of the view that prisoners are treated fairly.

Are prisoners treated humanely?

The Board is of the opinion that the prison continues to have an emphasis on humane treatment and has regularly observed sensitive and respectful interaction between staff and prisoners. However, there have been occasions when some prisoners have had to endure unacceptable and adverse living conditions.,

Are prisoners prepared well for their release?

The Board has received a large number of applications from prisoners relating to sentence management and of these a third concerned preparations for release including accommodation, approved premises, bank accounts, support services and medication, for example. The Board is concerned that lack of preparation and resources to support prisoners in the community after release may increase the risk of re-offending.

For further information contact: the Independent Monitoring Board at HMP Haverigg:

Notes

The Independent Monitoring Board is a body of volunteers established in accordance with the Prison Act 1952 and the Asylum Act 1999 which require every prison and IRC [Immigration Removal/Reception Centre] to be monitored by an independent Board, appointed by the Secretary of State for Justice, from members of the community.

To carry out these duties effectively IMB members have right of access to every prisoner, all parts of the prison and also to the prison’s records.

HMP Haverigg opened over 50 years ago, is on an old military airfield site dating from World War II and some of the original wartime buildings, are still in use.

Most of the prisoners are serving sentences of four or more years, although a significant number are serving a life sentence and a small number are of foreign nationality.

Read The Report

HMP Durham: Must Address Violence, Drugs and Deaths says Inspectors

HMP Durham, a heavily overcrowded prison, was found by inspectors to have significant problems with drugs and violence and worryingly high levels of self-harm and self-inflicted and drug-related deaths.

Durham became a reception prison in 2017. Around 70% of the 900 men in the jail were either on remand or subject to recall and over 70% had been in Durham for less than three months. On average, 118 new prisoners arrived each week. Significant numbers of prisoners said they arrived at the jail feeling depressed or suicidal. Self-harm was very high.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said: “Our overriding concern was around the lack of safety. Since the last inspection in October 2016, there had been seven self-inflicted deaths, and it was disappointing to see that the response to recommendations from the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (which investigates deaths) had not been addressed with sufficient vigour or urgency.

“There had also been a further five deaths in the space of eight months where it was suspected that illicit drugs might have played a role.” Drugs were readily available in the jail and nearly two-thirds of prisoners said it was easy to get drugs; 30% said they had acquired a drug habit since coming into the prison. “These were very high figures”, Mr Clarke said, though the prison had developed a strategy to address the drugs problem.

The leadership, Mr Clarke added, was “immensely frustrated by the fact that they had no modern technology available to them to help them in their efforts to stem the flow of drugs into the prison. We were told that they had been promised some modern scanning equipment but that it had been diverted to another prison.” The scale of the drugs problem and related violence meant that technological support was urgently needed.

Since the last inspection at Durham in 2016, violence had doubled and the use of force by staff had increased threefold, though some of the increase in force may have been due to new staff who were not yet confident in using de-escalation techniques. Governance of the use of force had improved.

Mr Clarke added: “There were some very early signs that the level of violence was beginning to decline, but it was too early to be demonstrable as a sustainable trend.”

Alongside these concerns, inspectors noted “many positive things happening at the prison.” These included the introduction of in-cell phones and electronic kiosks on the wings for prisoners to make applications, which had “undoubtedly been beneficial”. The disruption caused by prisoners needing to be taken to court had been reduced by the extensive use of video links.

A new and more predictable daily regime had recently been introduced, increasing access for men to amenities such as showers and laundry on the wings. “For a prison of this type, the time out of cell enjoyed by prisoners was reasonable and it was quite apparent that, despite its age, the prison was basically clean and decent,” Mr Clarke said. It was also good that the leadership saw new staff as an opportunity to make improvements, not an inexperienced liability.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“There was no doubt that there was an extent to which HMP Durham was still going through the process of defining, refining and responding to its role as a reception prison. The very large throughput of prisoners gave rise to the risk that taking them through the necessary processes could predominate over identifying individual needs and ensuring favourable outcomes. However, the prison was aware of this risk. The most pressing needs are to get to grips with the violence of all kinds, make the prison safer and reduce the flow of drugs. Only then will the benefits flow from the many creditable initiatives that are being implemented.”

Mark Leech, Editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales said:

“Apart from security, safety must be the primary function of any prison but the number of deaths at Durham, and particularly the failure to implement the recommendations of the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman designed to reduce deaths in custody, is deeply worrying.

“Only yesterday I wrote an open Letter about this issue to the Ombudsman, and this report reinforces the point that prisons must have the resources to implement PPO recommendations otherwise what is the use of them in the first place?”

Prisons minister Rory Stewart said: “We are determined to install full airport-style security with the right dogs, technology, scanners and search teams to detect drugs.

“We will install the technology in Durham and we will be rolling it out across our local prisons. Tackling drugs is vital for reducing violence.”

Mail & Property Scanners installed in ’10 Jails Project’ Prisons

Prisons have been issued with specialist scanning equipment and detailed instructions on handling incoming mail following a surge in attempts to post drug-laced paper and other contraband to inmates.

Correspondence is being exploited to convey illicit substances and items into establishments, according to an official security briefing seen by the Press Association.

Instances have been reported in all prison regions in England and Wales, and in both the male and female estate.

Finds have included “large amounts” of drugs, tobacco and sim cards, the document circulated by HM Prison & Probation Service says.

It also reveals that some jails have reported chemically laced paper containing household chemicals such as alloy wheel cleaner, insect poison, koi carp sedative and acetone.

Prisons Minister Rory Stewart said scanners which can detect invisible traces of drugs soaked into clothing and paper have been installed at 10 of the most challenging jails.

He said drugs in prison have been a “game-changer”, driving self-harm and extreme violence, adding: “As the methods used to smuggle drugs into prisons continue to evolve, our response to that threat becomes ever more agile and vigilant.”

Smuggling attempts involving mail have come under the spotlight after psychoactive substances such as Spice were identified as a major threat to prison stability.

The drugs, formerly known as “legal highs”, have had a “significant” impact on the safety and security of establishments, the briefing note says.

The official guidance, obtained by the Press Association following a Freedom of Information request, says intelligence continues to suggest that paper laced with psychoactive substances (PS) is being supplied via correspondence.

It states: “The potency of PS paper can vary significantly between batches and even within different sections of a single sheet.

“As our ability to detect herbal PS and interrupt conveyance has improved, prisoners have increasingly sought to convey PS-soaked paper as it is easier to conceal.

“Actual levels of laced paper entering the establishments are not known; however, intelligence reporting indicates that post appears to be the preferred method.”

The briefing, marked “Official”, was issued to governors, security departments and mail room staff in November.

It says: “Whilst it is recognised that mail is one method in which prisoners may receive illicit items, we should not introduce processes that indefinitely treat all such correspondence as suspicious.

“Where justified, we should open, read, and stop mail on a case-by-case basis.”

Staff members who suspect that mail contains illicit items are advised to wear personal protective equipment for health and safety reasons and evidence preservation, the five-page paper says.

Photocopying correspondence and providing prisoners with copies of the original letters may be considered if it is proportionate to the risk posed, the guidance says.

Any establishment that imposes this measure for all post should review the position at least every three months, while legal and confidential mail can only be photocopied if there is “specific intelligence or suspicion”.

The document recommends that prisons communicate with law firms to ensure genuine correspondence is correctly marked, following warnings about the use of bogus legal letters for smuggling attempts.

Where there is a local supplier of newspapers and magazines, jails should consider using more than one to “disrupt potential conveyance activity in this area”.

The document emphasises that “due care should be given not to significantly delay a prisoner’s access to mail, in the interest of ensuring minimal impact on family life”.

Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “This guidance shows why tackling drugs in prison is more complicated than people sometimes like to think.”

He suggested a straightforward way to reduce the problem would be to give prisoners “controlled access” to electronic communications, adding: “You can’t spray Spice on to an email.”

Mark Leech, Editor of Converse, the largest circulation national monthly prisons newspaper, welcomed the development but said it needed to go much further.

Mr Leech said: “Drugs are a menace in our prisons leading to violence, bullying, self-harm and suicides, anything that reduces the importation into prisons of drugs is to be welcomed.

“But installing scanners in less than 10 per cent of prisons is woefully inadequate, the Prisons Minister needs to get real and install them across the prison estate.

“Prison governors can authorise the opening of mail between inmates and social contacts to check for illicit enclosures, and they also have the power to open legal correspondence, and read it, where there are grounds for believing that it contains illicit enclosures or doesn’t come from a bona fide legal source.”

The latest prison safety statistics will be published at 09.30 today – Thursday 31st January 2019.

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.

Birmingham Prison: A Prisons Where “Violence is rife and staff are fearful” Says Ex-inmate

Violence is rife, staff are even more fearful than prisoners, and drug use is routine inside HMP Birmingham, according to an inmate who was released on Monday.

Other prisoners being freed after completing their sentences claimed mobile phones were changing hands inside the jail for around £150.

One inmate, waiting for a relative to pick him up after being released from a six-week sentence, said: “It’s fair to say most of the prisoners are terrified in there but the screws are even more terrified than the prisoners.

“I’m surprised it has taken so long for the inspectors to do something – there are drugs everywhere. The place is a joke.”

Another man, in his 20s, told reporters: “I’ve just spent six weeks in there and the conditions are pretty shit, to be honest – from what I have seen there are a lot of drugs.

“Drugs have taken over the prison and G4S have just let it happen. The prisoners were in control and it doesn’t feel safe.

“There were a lot of people on my wing that just stayed behind the door because they were scared to come out.”

A third inmate being freed from the jail’s main gate said he believed prisoners had gained more influence since a 15-hour riot in 2016 during which a bunch of keys were taken from a warder and used to unlock cells.

“I’ve been inside for five-and-a-half years and I think the prisoners run it, to be honest – and that’s the best way in my opinion.”

Some of the men being released also claimed that trainers were often stolen, leaving more vulnerable inmates wearing flip-flops on wings where even the smallest argument could trigger serious violence.

None of the men would give their names.

Contraband-Detecting scanners, Each Costing £100k, “Now Being Rolled Out Across Prison Estate”, Says Minister

Full body scanners to detect drugs and other objects concealed inside prisoners are being rolled out across jails, a justice minister has said.

Rory Stewart described millimetre wave scanners as the “technological future” as he told MPs they will be piloted in 10 prisons.

He made the comments after being asked about drugs hidden in prisoners’ bodies when they leave one prison for another.

Labour’s Alex Cunningham (Stockton North) said: “I appreciate there are major issues around funding prisons and keeping staff and prisoners safe.

“The minister wrote to me about drug scanners in Holme House prison in Stockton North but didn’t address the issue of one to detect drugs concealed in prisoners’ bodies when they leave one prison for another.

“Will we get one soon or isn’t there enough money?”

Mr Stewart said there were two different types of scanner: “There’s a straightforward X-ray scanner which will generally pick up on bits of metal and things outside your body.

“And then there’ll be a millimetre wave scanner which is able in certain of our prisons to detect objects inside the body.”

He continued: “These are expensive pieces of kit, in certain cases they can run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.

“We are now beginning to roll them out across the estate.

“I absolutely agree that that is the technological future and we will be piloting them in 10 prisons to see that they do what we both believe they should do.”

Prisons could get new powers to test for NPS

Prisons could be handed new powers to test for psychoactive substances not currently prohibited by law – but one prisons expert has said the move was “based on a complete misunderstanding of reality”.

Prisoners can now only be tested for substances that are registered under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 – meaning many modern manufactured psychoactive drugs go unchecked.

Tory MP Bim Afolami told ministers in the Commons that the “cancer of drugs” like Spice needed to be “exorcised” from the system.

The Hitchin and Harpenden MP, proposing his Prisons (Substance Testing) Bill, said: “In order to add a newly formed manufactured psychoactive drug to a list of prohibited drugs the Government needs to manually add each and every psychoactive drug to that list.

“This can be very cumbersome, very time consuming and relatively easy for drug manufacturers and the chemical experts to get around the law and they do this by producing slightly different versions of such a psychoactive drug.”

Mr Afolami urged the Government to support his Bill, via a 10-minute rule motion, telling ministers it would “untie their hands” in the fight on drugs within prisons.

He added: “This Bill is very straightforward and very simple, it allows a generalised definition of psychoactive drugs, one provided by the Psychoactive Substance Act 2016.

“It allows it to be added to the statute book which will allow Her Majesty’s Prison Service to test prisoners for any and all psychoactive substances going forward, now and in the future.”

The Bill was listed for a second reading on July 6 but is unlikely to become law in its current form without Government support or sufficient parliamentary time.

But Mark Leech, editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales said:

“I applaud their willingness to keep going back to this issue, it is vital they do as NPS drugs are a toxic chemical combination that have already claimed around 100 lives in our prisons – and have been responsible for tens of thousands of incidents of violence and self harm too.

“But widening the legal goalposts in this way, is not the solution and it is based on a complete misunderstanding of reality.

“The fact is that prisons can and do already test for NPS.

“Prisons now have around 300 drug dogs trained to sniff out NPS, and HMPPS have had powers to test prisoners for NPS since September 2016.

“Figures drawn from the HMPPS Incident Reporting System suggest there were just over 4000 incidents where psychoactive substances were found in prisons between August 2016 and July 2017 in England and Wales.

“Latest details of how many positive NPS tests there have been is due in July 2018, when HMPPS publishes its next Digest on the matter.”

source: https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2017-09-04/6921/