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'Our prisons are awash with illicit items' - hundreds of drugs and mobile phones found in Norfolk and Suffolk prisons

PUBLISHED: 12:50 13 November 2017 | UPDATED: 12:50 13 November 2017

Cannabis was found at Norwich prison during the crackdown. Picture: Archant

Cannabis was found at Norwich prison during the crackdown. Picture: Archant

Denise Bradley/Steve Adams

Hundreds of drugs, including psychoactive substance Spice, as well as almost 1,500 phones and sim cards have been found in Norfolk and Suffolk prisons.

HMP Wayland is one of five prisons in Norfolk and Suffolk where the contraband was found. 
Photo: ArchantHMP Wayland is one of five prisons in Norfolk and Suffolk where the contraband was found. Photo: Archant

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said today its officers had confiscated 873 mobile phones, 458 SIM cards and 750 drug packages at five prisons - HMP Bure, HMP Highpoint, HMP Hollesley Bay, HMP Norwich and HMP Wayland in 18 months.

The finds were part of an operation to crack down on contraband behind bars. The MoJ said it had invested £2 million in detection equipment nationally.

Prisons minister Sam Gyimah published the figures on Monday about the illicit finds from April last year to September this year.

The MoJ said the recovery of these banned items would help thwart attempts by criminals to continue committing crime behind bars.

At HMP Highpoint in Suffolk 349 phones were found and spice was discovered 170 times. At HMP Norwich and HMP Wayland cannabis was seized 21 times.

A further 200 SIM cards were seized at HMP Wayland.

See also: Norwich prison inmate jailed after drugs found in his pants

Recent riots and an increase in violence in prisons have led to much criticism of cuts to guards and the prison service.

But the MoJ said it was “strengthening the frontline” with 2,500 additional prison officers by 2018.

Contraband has been brought into prisons through drones, visitors, being thrown over walls and by new prisoners.

In April this year two men, Remo White-Chandler and Romaine Gayle, were jailed for six and four years respectively for using a drone to get contraband into three prisons, including HMP Highpoint.

Mr Gyimah said: “I am determined to stem the flow of drugs into our prisons and transform establishments into places of safety and reform and we are doing all we can to invest so that our hardworking prison officers have the right tools to do the job.

“These figures highlight the determination of prison staff to disrupt this behaviour, while sending a clear message that we will not tolerate this kind of activity. Those who peddle drugs in an attempt to thwart reform should face the full force of the law, which means a police investigation and extra time behind bars.

“I want to pay tribute to the staff at these prisons for their efforts and dedication to preventing contraband from getting into their prisons, which we know has a detrimental impact on stability and progress.”

But Steve Gillan, general secretary of the Prison Officers’ Association (POA), said: “These finds are just the tip of an iceberg. Our prisons are awash with drugs and illicit items because of Government year-on-year budget cuts.

“For the minister to claim massive investment is paying dividends is fantasy. Our prisons are in crisis.

“The POA believe we need to get back to at least staffing levels pre 2010.”

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