Increase in drugs smuggled into jail

Prison Officers Association branch chairman Steve Douglas during a protest outside Hindley Prison
Prison Officers Association branch chairman Steve Douglas during a protest outside Hindley Prison

The amount of illicit drugs being smuggled into Hindley prison rocketed last year, with more than 150 inmates caught with illegal substances in a 12-month period.

A recent Freedom of Information request has revealed the instances of drugs and mobile phones found on prisoners at all UK jails since January 2012.

The database released by the Ministry of Justice shows that during the entirety of 2012, only three discoveries of drugs were made, but in December 2016 alone 13 inmates were caught smuggling pyschoactive substances into the prison.

A prison service spokesman said: “We are taking unprecedented action to stop the supply of drugs and phones in our prison, and these figures show our efforts are working.

“This includes an innovative new drug testing programme, over 300 dogs to detect psychoactive substances, and making it a criminal offence to possess pyschoactive substances in prison.

“We are also stepping up measures to find and block mobiles, including a £2m investment in detection wands and legislation to block phones being used in prisons.”

Mobile phone smuggling has recently become a serious problem in prison, with 146 devices found on prisoners at Hindley HMP in the past year alone- only two of these were brought in by visitors.

In comparison, 15 lots of drugs were smuggled in by visitors in 2016.

The prison service spokesman added: “We are clear that anyone found with contraband will be subject to disciplinary action and police investigations.”

In the continuing fight against illegal drug use in prisons, the Ministry of Justice has teamed up with police to catch anyone trying to use drones to get contraband into jails.

It is a criminal offence to bring a mobile phone into a prison or to transmit sounds or images from within a prison using a mobile phone. The offences can carry a custodial sentence of up to two years.

Prisoners in the north west have had almost 43,000 days of additional imprisonment imposed on them in the past year for breaking prison rules- a number equivalent to 117 years.

At Hindley alone, 5,389 days have been added onto prisoners’ sentences in the past two years, which is an average of 10.6 days per inmate.

However these actions have been deemed “draconian” and “counter-productive” by campaigners for penal reform.

Frances Cook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Prisons are out of control. More people than ever before are losing their lives to suicide, and violence and self-injury are at record levels. The adjudications system has become a monster that is making these problems worse.”

Staff at Hindley Prison have staged at series of protests in recent years Wigan jail staff have walked out in protest at plans that may change the way they work.

Nationally, the report shows that, across England and Wales, almost 290,000 additional days of imprisonment were handed down to prisoners during 2016 – a 75 per cent rise in only two years – as jails have been brought to breaking point by overcrowding and staff shortages.