Prisons in the press – 26 February

Drones, drugs and the d’Urbervilles… 

... Image: George Bayntun

Could the bones found in Dorchester’s former prison be that of the girl who inspired Thomas Hardy? Image: George Bayntun

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Prisons in the press brings you the best articles from the past week to keep you up-to-date on prison news.

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Hot off the press

Drones are increasingly being used to smuggle drugs, mobile phones and other contraband into jails, new figures have revealed. Statistics obtained through a Press Association Freedom of Information request show that there was a 1,550 per cent jump in the recorded number of incidents involving drones in 2015. Both the BBC and Sky have the story.

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Revealed this week

  1. Durham prison is overcrowded and close to capacity. The prison would ideally hold no more than 595 inmates, is averaging 930, according to a new report by the Independent Monitoring Board. The Northern Echo has the story.
  2. Prison is no bar to higher education as university ‘campus’ opens in Kent jailThe Guardian reports that the new project allows inmates to sleep and eat at Swaleside Academy and study alongside staff. Read more here.
  3. Ministry of Justice values Norwich prison at £50million but says it’s not for sale. The figure was published in parliamentary documents in response to a question from Labour’s shadow justice minister Andy Slaughter. The Eastern Daily Press has the story.
  4. Prisoner on remand dies in Northern Ireland jail. Three separate investigations are under way after a 24 year old prisoner who was being held at HMP Maghaberry in County Antrim died in custody. The BBC has more.
  5. The private prison HMP Oakwood is struggling to prove bigger is better. The Guardian reports that the supersize G4S-run jail is grappling with a lack of profit, inexperienced staff and suicidal inmates. Read the full report from inside the prison here.

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Drugs in prison this week 

  1. Nottinghamshire jail in danger of being “overwhelmed” by a flood of legal highs. A report details how prisoners at HMP Ranby “forcibly” seized a package containing new psychoactive substances from prison staff. The BBC has more.
  2. Jail for man who hid drugs under stamps. Steven Ferguson hid small quantities of cannabis on letters sent to Kilmarnock Prison. He was caught after a sniffer dog at the jail detected the Class B drugs. The Courier has the story.
  3. Prison drug smuggler caught after inmate choked on heroin package. John Robertson stuffed the plastic wrap of heroin into a prisoner’s mouth during a visit to HMP Perth. But the wrap, containing drugs worth £900, got caught in the inmate’s throat. The BBC has more.
  4. Grandfather who smuggled drugs into prison in his boxers is jailed. Raymond Brockway, 59, from Cardiff, was jailed for 22 weeks for smuggling drugs into HMP Parc in Bridgend. Wales Online has the story.

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News is context: The rise of the drone 

The BBC reports that in 2013 no unmanned aircraft were detected in or around prisons in England and Wales. This rose to two incidents in 2014 and 33 in 2015.

Of the 35 incidents, drugs were discovered at least six times, mobile phones more than eight times and a drone itself recovered in 19 instances.

One of the biggest finds listed a drone, drugs, mobile phone, a charger and USB cards at HMP Oakwood in the West Midlands in December last year.

 

... Image: Don McCullough

Drug smuggling incidents involving drones jumped from 0 to 33 in three years. Image: Don McCullough

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HMP Onley in Northamptonshire had four drone incidents between 2014 and 2015, followed by Lindholme, Ranby and Swansea prisons on three, and Bedford, Wandsworth and Manchester on two.

Leicester, The Mount, Whatton, Leeds, Eastwood Park, Liverpool, Norwich, Glen Parva, Huntercombe, Wormwood Scrubs, Full Sutton, Guys Marsh, Long Lartin, Bullingdon, Wealstun and Oakwood prisons all recorded one incident.

Sky reports that the Ministry of Justice said:

“Incidents involving drones are rare, but we remain constantly vigilant to all new threats to prison security. We have introduced new legislation to further strengthen our powers, making it illegal to land a drone in prison or to use a drone to drop in psychoactive substances. Anyone found using drones in an attempt to get contraband into prisons can be punished with a sentence of up to two years.”

A report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons in December highlighted a number of creative ways drugs have been smuggled into prisons: thrown over prison walls in a tennis ball, packages fired by catapults, and dropped in from drones. The report added that “easy access to illicit mobile telephones makes it possible to plan the drops carefully.”

 

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In other news 

Autistic ‘Prison Houdini’ could finally be freed after 13 escape attempts in 36 years. American Mark DeFries memorized guards’ keys and carved exact replicas and managed to make it out of jail on seven occasions, only to later be recaptured. MailOnline has more.

Bones found at prison may belong to real-life Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Archaeologists unearthed the remains of a woman at Dorchester prison in Dorset whose execution may have had a lasting impact on the writer Thomas Hardy. The Guardian has the story.

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