Drunken visitors, possession of drugs, arson and the misconduct of jail staff are just some of the things police have had to deal with after being called out to West Midlands jails.
New figures show 117 calls were made to police over an eight-month period to incidents reported at Featherstone Prison, Oakwood Prison and Brinsford young offenders’ institution, all in South Staffordshire.
Most of the calls came from HMP Featherstone, where officers asked forhelp a total of 49 times during the spell.
Staff at super-prison HMP Oakwood contacted police 41 times between April 2012 and January 2013 while HMYOI Brinsford had 29 reported incidents in that period.
Police-logged incidents at Oakwood include allegations of assault; items being thrown into the prison; staff conduct; suspicious people on the perimeter of the jail and the harassment of other inmates’ partners.
Officers were also called out to reports of drug discoveries.
At HMP Featherstone, staff contacted the emergency services over arson, a visitor who had consumed excess alcohol and disturbances inside the jail.
Like HMP Oakwood there were also concerns over the harassment of inmates’ partners and problems with staff conduct.
Young Offenders’ Institution Brinsford had the lowest number of police call-outs. They included arson, assault and possession of drugs.
The Ministry of Justice, which oversees Featherstone and Brinsford, said it always informs police of potential crimes.
Staffordshire Police said not all calls were attended but they had been made by prison officials.
Superintendent Simon Tweats, head of Staffordshire Police’s justice services, said: “Staffordshire Police works closely with prisons within the area to prevent and reduce crime. The force has a number of specially-trained prison intelligence officers who are in regular contact with prison staff to share information and intelligence.
“Inevitably, there are occasions when the police are called to investigate crimes within prisons and these calls for service are dealt with in the same way as they are in any other context, for example when crimes in schools are reported.”
Mr Tweats: added: “Minor incidents are dealt with according to the prisons’ own internal policy, as they are in schools, and often there is no need for police involvement. However, more serious incidents are always referred for police investigation and action.”
A spokeswoman for G4S which runs the HMP Oakwood, said: “We’re serious about keeping criminal activity out of Oakwood, and, where necessary and appropriate, we will refer matters to the police.
“We have made significant investment in measures to keep drugs and other contraband out of prison and we have a zero tolerance policy of which staff, prisoners, and visitors are constantly reminded.”
Oakwood has been blighted by problems since it opened in April 2012.
Just after Christmas there was a large-scale disturbance at the site involving around 20 prisoners.
It took about nine hours to resolve and Staffordshire Police are investigating what happened. There were also two rooftop protests by prisoners at the jail last year while a damning recent report found the jail had inexperienced staff and high levels of violence and self-harm among inmates.
Inspectors found a vast array of illicit drugs were ‘easily available’, while inmates were also found to be brewing illicit ‘hooch’ in their cells and drinking booze thrown over the prison fence.
Bosses at G4S announced plans to introduce extra fencing and CCTV to stop an influx of drug-filled tennis balls being thrown over the walls into exercise yards.
It comes just days after the Express & Star revealed the number of drug seizures at prisons in the West Midlands and Staffordshire almost trebled in the space of a year. Latest figures showed the total number of drug confiscations at HMP Oakwood, Featherstone, HMYOI Brinsford and Winson Green in Birmingham rose from 47 to 132.
At Feathertone prison, there were 66 cases – almost twice the number reported the previous year.
Bosses from the National Offender Management Service said the issue of drugs in prisons was taken very seriously.