‘Too easy’ to get drugs in prison Narcotics destabilising jail rocked by UK’s biggest riots in decades
HALF of all inmates at Birmingham’s beleaguered Winson Green prison say it is easy to get drugs, according to a damming report.
A report from HM Inspectorate of Prisons said stability was being “adversely affected by the high volume of illicit drugs”, which was rocked in December by the worst riot in a UK prison in nearly 30 years.
Inspectors arrived unannounced in February while four wings were still under repair and nearly a third of prisoners were shipped out to other UK prisons. They found: The safety and stability of the prison was being adversely affected by the high volume of illicit drugs, particularly new psychoactive substances (formerly legal highs);
50 per cent of prisoners said it was easy to get drugs leading to high levels of violence, debt and bullying;
The prison had a good drug sup- ply reduction strategy and was working well with local police, but more needed to be done;
There was still too much inconsistency in the way poor behaviour was dealt with by staff ;
Despite a good range of education and training provision, not enough prisoners were able to take advantage of what was on offer and there was insufficient priority given to getting prisoners to their activities.
Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons, said: “The leadership of the prison was clearly committed to meeting the many challenges presented by this large and complex establishment. The events of December 2016 had had a profound effect upon many members of staff.
“There was still, some two months later, a palpable sense of shock at the suddenness and ferocity of what had happened. Despite this, there was a very clear determination on the part of leadership and staff to move on from the disorder, rebuild and make progress.” The report found there were 500 new arrivals every month and prisoners stayed for an average of just six weeks. The oldest pris- oner is 90 and nearly half of the men are unsentenced or serving less than six months.
HMP Birmingham director, Richard Stedman, said: “The report is a fair assessment of the very real challenges we face at HMP Birmingham.
“Like many other local city-centre prisons, we are a target for organised crime gangs who try to smuggle drugs into our facility. Drones are a constant threat and although we have a strong partnership with West Midlands Police to prosecute those who try to get contraband in, we are looking at new technology to help us to thwart this pernicious trade that undermines safety and feeds violence, debt and bullying.
“We are also committed to recruiting additional prison officers and by September we are aiming to have 30 more prison officers than our target for the establishment.”
> Left, Richard Stedman, director of HMP Birmingham, above