Airport-style security and addiction assessments under Govt prison drugs clampdown

7 December 2021, 00:06 | Updated: 7 December 2021, 00:15

The Government has announced measures to tackle drug dealing in prisons
The Government has announced measures to tackle drug dealing in prisons. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

All new prisons will be installed with "airport-style security" and every inmate will be assessed for addiction on arrival under plans to clamp down on the movement of drugs behind bars.

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Body scanners, biometric identification and drug dogs are among a raft of measures proposed to stem the flow of dangerous substances that "wreak havoc" in prisons and "scupper the work of frontline staff" in reforming offenders, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said.

The Government has outlined the plans in its Prisons Strategy White Paper, which will be unveiled in full in the House of Commons today.

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It is proposing that all new prisons should have "airport-style security" as standard, including X-ray body scanners, biometric identification for visitors, and drug dogs and hand-held wands at prison gates.

The scanners - which were shown to LBC back in November - could also be used to search staff who might be "susceptible to corruption", the MoJ said, to prevent them from being blackmailed into smuggling illegal goods behind bars.

The Government also wants every prisoner to be assessed for drug and alcohol addiction on arrival in custody, and it is planning to set "new stringent targets" holding prison governors to account on keeping drugs out of their jails and getting inmates clean.

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As well as receiving individual targets on drug testing, prisons will - for the first time - be accountable on drug rehabilitation, the MoJ said.

It said the results - covering prisons' success in getting offenders off drugs and alcohol and into education or employment on release - would be published in national league tables.

It added that a range of treatments, including abstinence therapy, would help to reduce "over-reliance on opiate substitutes like methadone".

Body scanners are already installed at every closed male prison, according to the MoJ.

The proposals outlined in the new White Paper would extend the use of this equipment, as well as other "airport-style" measures such as biometric identification and drug dogs, to all new prisons across the country.

This would include HMP Five Wells in Wellingborough, opening in early 2022, the new prison in Glen Parva in Leicestershire, the new prison next to HMP Full Sutton in Yorkshire, and three locations yet to be confirmed.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "This Government is delivering tougher sentences and 20,000 more prison places to keep the most dangerous criminals off our streets for longer, but prisons also need to play their part in cutting crime and preventing future victims.

"That is why with a zero tolerance approach to drugs and more autonomy for governors to maintain good order, our reforms will clamp down on the causes of reoffending and make sure prison pays."

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said that additional prisons being built would ensure that serious offenders would be behind bars for longer, and said the improved security would reduce the illicit trade of things like narcotics and weapons.

"Our plan will improve the security of our jails to help cut off the flow of drugs, knives and mobile phones, and allow effective rehabilitation to take place," he said.

"And the regime in prison will be re-oriented to end addiction and build up skills, and access to work - so offenders go straight into work on release.

"This is how we will cut the crime and keep the public safe."

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But Steve Reed, Labour's Shadow Justice Secretary, claimed Mr Johnson's Government could not be trusted to "clean up the mess" in the prison system.

"It's no wonder that drug use among prisoners has soared in the last decade because the Conservatives have mismanaged our prisons, leading them to become awash with drugs, violence and disorder," he said.

"Conservative incompetence, cuts to the whole justice system and a lack of oversight of contracted companies has left prisons understaffed, dangerous and overcrowded universities of crime where drug addiction is rife and re-offending is commonplace.

"Boris Johnson and the Conservatives cannot be trusted to clean up the mess they've made in prisons because they are soft on crime - and with their chaotic court case backlog, violent offenders will be allowed to continue to roam Britain's streets for longer."