‘Too easy’ to get drugs in prison Nar­cotics desta­bil­is­ing jail rocked by UK’s big­gest ri­ots in decades

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - Nick McCarthy Crime Cor­re­spon­dent

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

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