Officers at private jail 'ignored heroin use'

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The Independent Online

Prison officers turned a blind eye to heroin abuse and endangered lives by pretending to make checks on suicidal inmates, an undercover BBC documentary at a privately run jail claims today.

Prison officers turned a blind eye to heroin abuse and endangered lives by pretending to make checks on suicidal inmates, an undercover BBC documentary at a privately run jail claims today.

Kilmarnock prison is one of 11 in the private sector, with a 12th opening this month in Peterborough. The company that operates the jail said staff had been removed from front-line duties while the allegations were investigated.

The reporter Steve Allen, who spent 16 weeks as an officer at the 600-inmate jail, uncovered a catalogue of mistakes, corner-cutting and negligence.

When he smelt heroin inside a cell, a senior officer did not act, only telling him: "Leave it now - it stinks in here." Another officer says he sometimes merely confiscated small amounts of heroin, telling inmates: "You owe me a favour now ... I've got a dictionary of favours that I can cash in."

Allen found that officers at Kilmarnock, where seven prisoners have killed themselves since it opened in 1999, failed to make the regulation half-hourly checks on potentially suicidal inmates. He saw forms being falsified to show that the checks had been made - and even being completed in advance.

The prison is one of five run by the Premier Custodial Group, which also operates three secure centres for young offenders. Premier said that indepen- dent inspections had found that Kilmarnock was "a safe, well-run prison where staff and prisoner relationships are good".

Prison Undercover - the Real Story is on BBC1 at 9pm.