Some 225kg of drugs, 13,000 mobile phones and 7,000 SIM cards were seized from prisoners in England and Wales last year, according to Britain’s Ministry of Justice (MoJ).
The MoJ claimed the massive haul was the result of a crackdown on prison contraband that saw every jail fitted out with equipment designed to detect mobile phones on jail landings, and the deployment of 300 specialist drug dogs.
Prisons Minister Sam Gyimah commented: “I have been clear that the current levels of violence, drugs and mobile phones in our prisons is unacceptable.
“We have put in place a number of measures to help disrupt this illegal activity as it is an issue I am absolutely determined to resolve…
“The issues within our prisons will not be resolved overnight, but we must make progress in tackling these problems. Bringing in more frontline staff is an integral part of that.”
The Conservative government has faced criticism for deep financial cuts it has imposed on the Prison Service in England and Wales, which campaigners argue has led to an exponential rise in violence fuelled by the ready availability of former legal highs such as spice.
Addressing accusations that cuts to thousands of frontline prison roles by the Conservative government has led to deteriorating conditions in UK jails, Justice Secretary David Lidington yesterday told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that many of the issues prisons in England and Wales face stretch back years to past governments.
The National Audit Office (NAO) said at the end of last month that UK jails are struggling to cope with rising levels of self-harm and suicide, which have risen to record levels over recent years.
“Prisons have struggled to cope with reduced resources,” a report from the NAO concluded.
“When prisons are short-staffed, governors run restricted regimes where prisoners spend more of the day in their cells, making it more challenging for prisoners to access mental health services.”
This morning, two prison officers told BBC Two’s Victoria Derbyshire programme about the reality of working inside prisons in England and Wales, speaking of widespread violence and rampant drug abuse.
One described officers being punched and having boiling water thrown in their faces by prisoners, adding: “When I started, this drug known as spice, you’d have an incident a week, maybe two, very rare. But just before I left, you’d have three or four a day. Regular, regular, ambulances called to deal with a spice attack. We just couldn’t control it, it literally got out of hand.”
Speaking in September 2016, Prisons and Probation Ombudsman Nigel Newcomen revealed that prisoner deaths linked to new psychoactive substances such as spice had trebled over the previous three years, raising further questions over how former legal highs were being smuggled into the country’s jails.