Prisoners being segregated to avoid drug debts: Inmates at Haverigg jailhave been going on 'Rule 43' to escape from dealers. Jason Bennetto reports

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The Independent Online
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PRISONERS are being segregated in special isolation wings for their own protection after running up large debts for drugs from fellow inmates, prison inspectors revealed yesterday.

Drugs including heroin were readily available in Haverigg Prison, a low-security jail in west Cumbria, according to the report by the Chief Inspector of Prisons, Judge Stephen Tumim.

Some inmates deliberately built up debts and sought the protection of Rule 43 - normally reserved for sex offenders - when they could no longer meet repayments.

The prison, at a former RAF camp, has a history of drug dealing and it was still a 'major problem' said Judge Tumim. He also severely criticised the catering facilities, which were described as 'disgusting'.

'It appeared there were enough drugs available in the prison to sustain habits,' Judge Tumim said.

He recommended that drug dealers were not sent there - there were 15 at the jail at the time of the inspectors' unannounced visit in January - and called for the removal of Rule 43 prisoners.

Two-thirds of the 329 inmates - 10 of whom were convicted murderers - lived in former RAF huts, which were described as a 'haven for bullying and trafficking, primarily in drugs'.

Twenty-six were accommodated in cramped segregated areas, mostly because they were having difficulty coping with other prisoners or were in debt to other inmates.

Prisoners arriving at the jail were briefed by staff on how to cope with drug dealers, extortioners and bullies, 'seen as essential, particularly if weak or inexperienced inmates were to survive the early pressures of life in the huts'.

Staff-inmate relations were always potentially volatile because of the presence of drugs, of which there had been 154 finds in 1993. Parcels of drugs were thrown in over the perimeter fence and LSD had been sent through the post. Syringes had been found, indicating that heroin was being taken.

Judge Tumim concluded: 'We were surprised that Haverigg, with low physical security particularly in the hutted accommodation, was being asked to take inmates who had been convicted of dealing in drugs.'

Plans to replace the former RAF huts with new housing blocks should proceed without delay, the report said.

The report also attacked conditions in the dining room and kitchen which inmates described as 'disgusting' and Judge Tumim said were a 'serious cause for concern'.

The inspectors concluded: 'Overall, the eating conditions could best be described as both unpleasant and unhygienic.' The dining areas were filthy and covered with mud and old scraps of food. The kitchen was also dirty.

Staff complained that there was no medical cover after 5pm each day and the nearest health services were 25 miles away.

A spokesman for the Prison Service said that known drug dealers were no longer sent to Haverigg and inmates found to be drug dealing were now transferred to more secure establishments.

Haverigg was shortly to be allocated a dog trained to sniff out drugs to help combat the trafficking, and the prison was running courses to educate inmates about the dangers of drugs as well as Aids, he said. There were also plans to refurbish the kitchen.