Prisons see increase in drug smuggling

PUBLISHED: 09:30 12 June 2006 | UPDATED: 10:59 22 October 2010


MPs last night called for tougher measures to trace drugs in East Anglia's jails after an EDP investigation revealed the scale of attempts to smuggle cannabis, heroin and crack cocaine through prison security.

MPs last night called for tougher measures to trace drugs in East Anglia's jails after an EDP investigation revealed the scale of attempts to smuggle cannabis, heroin and crack cocaine through prison security.

Figures obtained by the EDP show that the number of drug seizures at Blundeston, Highpoint, Norwich and Wayland rose to 271 last year - with nearly nine kilos of drugs found at one prison alone.

Prison service chiefs said the seizures showed the strength of security measures, but warned that some smugglers were going to extreme lengths to hide illegal substances.

Prisoners released on licence had been caught returning to jail with drugs hidden inside their bodies, one governor revealed.

The number of drug seizures at Norwich prison rose from 51 in 2004 to 82 last year.

At Blundeston, near Lowestoft, 1.4kg of cannabis were found in the mail, while nearly 5kg of cannabis and 1,470 steroid tablets were found after being thrown over the fence at Suffolk's Highpoint prison last year.

MPs said they feared drug smuggling was undermining attempts to rehabilitate inmates and risked putting addicts back on the streets once they had served their sentence.

The figures come less than a month after Lord Phillips, the lord chief justice, warned that some drug addicts were committing crime in the hope of being sent to jail for drug treatment.

Up to 10pc of the east of England's prison population are given random urine tests for drugs each month - with about one in 10 of those tested failing.

Danny McAllister, area manager for the 12 prisons in the East, said: "I'm heartened by the success we're having in this region in finding and stopping drugs. I'm not saying that we've won the battle - but I think we're ahead on points."

Last night, Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk, said the figures "raised a real question about whether there isn't a more effective way of intercepting drugs by whatever route they come in by".

"Ultimately, it's not in the interest of inmates that this continues," he said. "It means there's a risk of addiction continuing while they are serving their sentence and then re-offending when they are released. It continues that miserable picture.

"There must be a more effective way of intercepting those drugs."

The figures obtained by the EDP using the Freedom of Information Act reveal that the number of drug seizures at Norwich, Wayland, Blundeston and Highpoint rose from 218 in 2004 to 271 last year - with the majority of seizures involving cannabis.

James Shanley, governor of Norwich prison, said 140 of his 700 inmates were on a detox programme and a further 440 prisoners were on a voluntary drugs-testing programme.

"It's not inevitable that drugs will get into jails," he said.

"There are some places that have done an exceptional job where they have reduced to zero the amount of drugs coming in and there are other places that are struggling with it.

"It depends on the geographical position of the prison, the type of security and perimeter and the kind of turnaround of inmates - the ins and outs of prisoners.

"Somewhere like Norwich has a turnaround of about 19,000 a year - which is a massive amount to police and some other places don't have that kind of number."

But Ian Gibson, Labour MP for Norwich North, said his concerns were growing.

"It's been identified for a long time that drugs are getting into prison and the strange ways that people try to smuggle them in," he said.

"I'm very concerned why we haven't got on top of that."

Christopher Fraser, the Tory MP for South West Norfolk - whose con-stituency includes Wayland prison - was unavailable for comment.

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