Midlands prison drug seizures triple in 12 months

The number of drug seizures in prisons in the West Midlands and Staffordshire almost trebled in the space of a year, it can be revealed.

prison

Latest figures relating to four prisons show the total number of drug confiscations rose from 47 to 132 between November 2011 and October 2012. At HMP Oakwood, there were 13 drug seizures in the space of just six months. Meanwhile, HMP Featherstone alone saw 66 cases in 2012 – almost twice the number of the previous year. Drug seizures at HMYOI Brinsford almost tripled over the same period from nine to 24, while at Winson Green there were 30 cases.

Karen Royster, spokesperson for the National Offender Management Service, said: “We take the illicit use of drugs in prisons, and the problems they cause, very seriously.

“We work hard to keep contraband out of prisons and use a range of security measures.”

She said the strategy had led to a 17 per cent fall in cases of drug misuse in UK prisons in the last 14 years.

“We will always press for the most serious charges to be laid against anyone attempting to bring drugs and other contraband into prisons,” she added.

Government figures claim more than half of the 85,000 people in UK jails have serious drug problems, with heroin accounting for a quarter of all narcotics seized.

And prison campaign groups have warned there has been an increase in the numbers of prisoners hooked on prescription drugs such as gabapentin and subutex.

Andrew Neilson, from the Howard League for Penal Reform, said prisons were becoming more effective at detecting illegal drugs, which had been reflected in the rise in seizures.

“However, this pattern of improvement is under threat as prison budgets are being cut at a time when prison numbers are rising,” he said.

“Of greater concern perhaps is the abuse of prescription drugs inside prisons.”

Last year security firm G4S announced it had erected additional fencing around the exterior of the trouble-plagued HMP Oakwood in Featherstone, in an effort to stop drug-filled tennis balls being thrown over the walls into exercise yards.

The move came after inmates at the prison had claimed drugs were more easier to get hold of than soap.

South Staffordshire MP Gavin Williamson said he wants to see stiffer penalties imposed on those bringing drugs and alcohol into jails in an effort to ‘squeeze contraband out’ of the prison system.

“I am amazed and aghast that such vast quantities of drugs are available in facilities which are supposed to be locked down,” he said.

“Life should be made hell for prisoners or anyone else caught with drugs inside jails.”