Prison guards have been left fighting a war against drugs at a troubled jail. New figures by the Ministry of Justice show almost a fifth - 18.8% - of prisoners at HMP Northumberland failed a drugs test last year. This was an increase from 14.3% the previous year.
The report found the prison, run by Sodexo Justice Services, had the fourth highest failure rate of any jail in the country.
Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery said he was concerned the prison was becoming awash with illegal substances. He said: “I have been contacted by many family members of officers about the problems at the prison and it concerns me greatly. Drugs are a huge problem and I will be working with the prison and local authorities to ensure those inside the prison stay safe.”
A spokesman for HMP Northumberland said they take a “zero tolerance approach” to banned items in the prison. The spokesman added: “We continue to manage a high number of prisoners with long-standing addiction issues, and working with our addictions and healthcare partners the prison delivers a comprehensive range of support measures for those who need it in our care.
In partnership with other law enforcement agencies, our staff work hard to successfully stop drugs getting into the prison on a regular basis. Our security measures are kept under constant review. Any member of the public who has information which would support us in our continual drive to reduce drug misuse should either contact the prison directly or contact their local police office.”
Brixton in South London, Kennet in Merseyside and HMP Bristol were the prisons with the highest rate of inmates failing drug tests. The report found 12.6% of inmates at HMP Durham tested positive for taking banned substances last year.
The prison service operates a compulsory random drug testing programme on all inmates.
The MoJ said it took a zero tolerance approach to illicit material in prisons and aims to test between five and 10% of prisoners every month. A report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons in December last year highlighted a number of ways drugs were being smuggled into prisons across the country. They included throwing the substances over prison walls inside a tennis ball, firing packages by catapults and dropping in drugs from drones. The report said that “easy access to illicit mobile telephones makes it possible to plan the drops carefully."
Across England and Wales, an average of 7.7% of prisoners were found to have tested positive for banned substances. The Ministry of Justice has been contacted for a comment.
By Michael Muncaster - ChronicleLive/Aug. 6, 2016
Photo: Modelled, getty
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