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New measures to crack down on drugs and mobile phones in prisons are showing early signs of success, according to the Ministry of Justice.




During 2016, prison authorities recovered 225kg (just under 500lbs) of illicit drugs from prisons, as well as more than 13,000 mobile phones and 7,000 sim cards.

£2m security investment


The seizures follow a £2 million investment which has seen every prison equipped with hand-held mobile phone detectors and portable detection poles for use on prison landings.
In addition, 300 specialist prison dogs have been trained in drugs detection to help stop drugs and illegal substances being brought into prisons, while a £3 million intelligence hub to tackle gang crime behind bars has been set up.

The measures are part of a wider strategy to tackle threats to security in prisons and have also seen steps introduced to halt the use of drones in and around prisons as they are being increasingly used to fly illicit drugs over perimeter fences.

The government says 2,500 additional prison officers will be employed by 2018 to help address security issues.

‘Drugs and phones unacceptable’


Legislation has made it a criminal offence to supply and possess psychoactive substances in a prison, however, in a survey conducted by the HM Inspectorate of Prisons last year, more than 45% of prisoners said it was relatively easy to obtain drugs.

Prisons Minister Sam Gyimah said: “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.”

He said the latest figures of drug and phone seizures “highlight the determination of prison staff to disrupt this behaviour, whilst at the same time sending a clear message that we will push to prosecute anyone who involves themselves in this kind of activity.”

Prison drug tests stepped up


A range of other measures to tackle problems of drugs and mobile phones in prisons include: rolling out new tests for psychoactive substances, including drug testing on entry and exit from prison; introducing legislation enabling prison authorities to apply for Telecommunications Restriction Orders to block specific mobile phones being used in prisons; and making it a criminal offence (with a maximum penalty of two years in prison) to bring a mobile phone into prison, or transmit sounds or images from within a prison using a mobile phone.

The government is also working with the mobile network operator in areas such as developing technological solutions to block mobile phone signals in prisons.

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