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.
HMP & YOI rochester, a training and resettlement prison in Kent holding adult and young adult male prisoners, had shown encouraging progress despite the “significant disruption” of a period in which it was told it would close but was then kept open, according to a report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons.
The leadership at rochester was commended for guiding the prison through this difficult period, coping with the loss of key staff after the closure announcement and some very poor accommodation, with one wing resembling a “derelict building”. HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) announced in March 2017 that rochester, a large and sprawling site dating back to 1874, would close for complete redevelopment. However, an increase in the national prison population led to a further announcement in July 2017 that the closure would be delayed until 2019. In 2015, inspectors had found that rochester was failing to deliver acceptable outcomes for prisoners. Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said the announcement and then delay of closure in 2017 “caused significant disruption and displacement of resources at the prison, and real uncertainty about its future.”
Inspectors returned to rochester in October and November 2017. Mr Clarke said: “Given the closure notice and ongoing uncertainty about the prison’s future, we were encouraged at this inspection to see progress in some key areas – to the great credit of the governor and his team. More needed to be done to embed and consolidate the progress made, but this had been achieved despite the uncertainties.”
Inspectors found rochester to be calmer than before, and poor behaviour was being more proactively challenged. Most men said they felt safe. Illegal drugs remained a big problem, and a major challenge, but the prison was better focused on these issues. There had been no deaths in custody since the 2015 inspection.
The prison was assessed as generally respectful, with much improved staff-prisoner relationships and better management of equality and diversity work and complaints. Much of the living accommodation was unacceptable, however, with constant demand for expensive emergency repairs, and C wing at HMP rochester “resembled a derelict building. Many cells were cramped, grubby, poorly maintained and without decent furniture, and we again found many offensive displays on walls.” The prison had made efforts to mitigate this, including allowing prisoners to paint their cells, but the living environment overall was not suitable and the accommodation needed to be closed.
“HMPPS also appeared to have reached this conclusion with the closure notice earlier last year. Despite the postponement of this decision in July, we would encourage HMPPS to revisit this issue at the very earliest opportunity,” Mr Clarke said.
The prison also suffered from insufficient staff to run a full regime, a problem exacerbated by the loss of a significant number of operational and specialist staff after the initial closure notice. Mr Clarke added: “The governor had
implemented a restricted regime, which meant men at least had a period of reliable time out of cell each day, prioritising attendance at activities.” Despite this, time out of cell overall was insufficient, and many activities were not being run because of staffing shortages. “We found far more men than at the last inspection locked up during the working day with nothing useful to do.”
Mr Clarke said:
“Uncertainty about the prison’s future was having a huge impact on outcomes and well-being at rochester. The prison was, however, very well led, and had clear and achievable plans to mitigate the impact of the uncertainty and improve areas within the governor’s control. Commendable progress had already been made in this regard. We would encourage whatever support or clarity can be provided to ensure any potential deterioration is avoided.”
Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of Her Majesty’s Prison & Probation Service, said:
“rochester has faced a number of challenges over the past year and I’m pleased that the Inspectorate has noted the progress made by the Governor and his team. A programme of refurbishment has been planned to address the most urgent accommodation issues, along with the recruitment of more staff to create a consistent regime for prisoners. We will continue to work towards addressing the broader issues raised in the report.”
A copy of the full report, published on 15 March 2018, can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at: www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons
Prison staff ignore inmates who are under the influence of “legal highs” in a jail where their use is a major problem, according to a watchdog report published today.
The Times reported drugs had been found at the rate of ten a month, including very large parcels that had been thrown over the wall, at Rochester jail in Kent. Prison inspectors saw inmates who were clearly under the influence of psychoactive substances when they arrived at the 740-inmate jail in September.
Their inspection report said that the use and supply of the substances, such as Spice, was a significant threat to prisoners. Inmates said that it was easier to get them than tobacco.
“There had been 62 drugs finds in the previous six months, including some very large parcels that had been thrown over the wall. During the inspection we observed prisoners obviously under the influence of these substances. However, some staff seemed indifferent to the number of prisoners clearly under the influence of drugs”, the report said.
The availability of so-called legal highs such as Spice was also leading to debt and bullying among inmates: 40 prisoners were held in isolation as they feared for their safety because of debts related to drugs.
Anabolic steroids and illegal buprenorphine (Subutex) had also been detected in drug tests.
Between March and August last year violence had escalated with 18 assaults against staff, 36 against prisoners and 16 fights.
Some had resulted in serious injuries and, in one case, murder.
The report also criticised poor living accommodation after inspectors found dirty cells, broken equipment and laundry facilities that were out of use.
Graffiti and displays of explicit pornography were widespread and some prisoners held in the segregation unit were living in squalid conditions. One prisoner had been left overnight in a cell with a blocked sink and toilet and another in a cell that had been damaged by fire, the report said.
Inspectors said staff too often failed to challenge poor behaviour by prisoners. “We observed prisoners swearing and smoking freely on landings, prisoner cleaners failing to work, without challenge by staff, and pictures contravening the offensive displays policy that were not dealt with.”
Nick Hardwick, the chief inspector of prisons, said the jail had gone through big changes but had not made the progress hoped for.
“We were told of plans for the future but our overriding impression was that it was a prison that just needed to focus on the basics.
“A robust drug strategy, cleaning the prison up, getting prisoners to work on time and some joined-up thinking about their approach to resettling prisoners would be good places to start,” he said.
Michael Spurr, the chief executive of the National Offender Management Service, said: “As the chief inspector has found, Rochester faces a significant challenge from new psychoactive substances, or so called legal highs.
“Staff are determined to tackle this and have already put in place additional security measures, as well as increasing awareness about the dangers and extending support to overcome substance misuse issues.”
Progress had stalled at HMP Rochester, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the training prison in Kent. (see also prison officers ignore use of legal highs)
HMP Rochester holds around 740 adult and young adult male prisoners on a mix of old and new accommodation situated on a large site. Prisoners serve a full range of sentences from the relatively short up to life. At its last inspection in 2013, the prison was undergoing significant management and operational change as an early adopter of a benchmarking and efficiency programme. The prison was emerging from another period of transition and was only now getting near to the full complement of staff needed and a more consistent delivery of its daily routine. The prison was not progressing and resettlement services provision had deteriorated. Safety remained a significant concern.
Inspectors were concerned to find that:
a fifth of prisoners reported feeling unsafe, first night and induction arrangements were inadequate and levels of violence were too high;
mandatory drug testing suggested higher than expected levels of drug use and there was evidence of considerable amounts of new psychoactive substances in the prison, yet too many staff seemed complacent of the issue and its impact;
levels of self-harm were high and care for those at risk was inadequate;
the use of formal disciplinary procedures was high, use of force was high and increasing, and the use of the special cell was very high for a training prison;
living conditions were poor and work to promote equality was weak;
progress in education, training and work was undermined by poor attendance, and staff were not sufficiently attentive in getting prisoners to work or education on time; and
resettlement work was disjointed and offender management required improvement.
However, inspectors were pleased to find that:
prisoners were generally positive about their relationship with staff, although inspectors felt that too much poor behaviour went unchallenged by staff;
prisoners had very good access to time out of cell;
the prison had improved the amount of purposeful activity since its last inspection, which was now sufficient to meet the needs of the population; and
the range of education, training and work places was good, as was vocational and classroom teaching;
Nick Hardwick said:
“Rochester is a prison which has gone through big changes in recent years but has not made the progress hoped for. It is a prison, however, not without advantages. It is near to having the number of staff it needs, it has sufficient activity and it has a clear purpose serving as a resettlement prison to its local community. We were told of plans for the future but our overriding impression was that it was a prison that just needed to focus on the basics. A robust drug strategy, cleaning the prison up, getting prisoners to work on time and some joined-up thinking about their approach to resettling prisoners would be good places to start.”
Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of the National Offender Management Service, said:
“As the Chief Inspector has found, Rochester faces a significant challenge from new psychoactive substances, or so called ‘legal highs’. Staff are determined to tackle this and have already put in place additional security measures, as well as increasing awareness about the dangers and extending support to overcome substance misuse issues.
“Since this inspection, progress has also been made to improve safety and purposeful activity with more prisoners engaged in high quality work and training opportunities.
“We will use the recommendations in this report to drive further improvements over the coming months.”
A prisoner who attacked a fellow inmate causing his death a week later has been jailed for four years.
Alastaire Scott, 23, pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of 28-year-old Frazer Stent at HMP Rochester and was jailed at Maidstone Crown Court.
The fatal attack took place in the Chilham Wing at the category Cprison on Sunday October 12, when inmates were allowed free movement on the wing.
Mr Stent had been part of a group of men involved in an altercation with a prisoner who was a close friend of Scott’s, Kent Police said.
He had been walking down a corridor, with Scott slightly behind him, and entered a cell where he spoke with two inmates inside.
While Scott remained outside the cell door, a few seconds later Mr Stent was pushed outside. With his attention focused on another inmate, Scott punched him to the right hand side of his head and he hit the ground with nothing breaking his fall.
Mr Stent was taken to Medway Maritime Hospital where a CT scan revealed bleeding on the brain. He was kept sedated throughout his time in hospital but his condition deteriorated and he died a week after being assaulted.
During interview Scott said he had carried out the attack because the victim had been involved in a confrontation with his friend but had not intended to kill him.
Detective Inspector Gavin Moss, senior investigating officer for the case, said: “Alastaire Scott’s decision to punch Frazer Stent was both reckless and stupid and the consequences could not be more tragic. Our thoughts and sympathies go out to the victim’s family.
“During interview Scott told officers he did not intend to kill his fellow inmate but that does not excuse his actions. He gave little thought to the consequences and the impact it would have on his victim, which in this tragic example could not have been worse.”