Women's jails suffer rise in drug 'mules'

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Jamaican drug smugglers now account for almost half the prisoners at some of Britain's women's jails.

The Home Office said 49 per cent of the inmates – 54 out of 111 – at Morton Hall prison near Lincoln, and more than 43 per cent of the prisoners at Cookham Wood jail in Kent were Jamaican drug "mules". There are also about 70 Jamaicans at Holloway jail in north London and substantial numbers at Send prison in Surrey, Bullwood Hall in Essex and Highpoint in Suffolk.

Olga Heaven, director of the charity Hibiscus, which works with foreign women held in British prisons, said: "Most of the women are single parents and the children that are being left behind are in danger of growing up as the criminals of the future."

Reports in Jamaica yesterday said that 444 British-bound drug mules had been arrested in the first eight months of this year at the island's two airports, Kingston and Montego Bay. In the same period, 266 Jamaicans, including 98 women, were arrested on drugs charges at Heathrow and Gatwick airports.

Last week a delegation of senior British government officials flew to the Caribbean to try to highlight the problem. The party included Deputy Assistant Commissioner Mike Fuller from Scotland Yard, Colin Harbin, head of enforcement in the Immigration Service and Jim Flockhart of the Customs and Excise anti-smuggling team at Gatwick airport.

The officials visited the impoverished Trenchtown districy of Kingston, and Fort Augusta women's prison where 51 Britons are held, most of them for trafficking cocaine.