Hundreds of prison officers sacked for smuggling contraband into jail, new figures reveal

Drugs, weapons and mobile phones among the prohibited goods passed to inmates

Officers have been sacked or disciplined for smuggling
Officers have been sacked or disciplined for smuggling

Hundreds of prison officers have been sacked for smuggling drugs and other illegal items into jails across England and Wales, new figures have revealed.

The number of staff caught bringing various drugs, mobile phones and weapons into prison for inmates has risen 57 percent since 2012.

Over the past six years, 341 prison officers have been dismissed, disciplined or forced to face judicial proceedings, according to Ministry of Justice (MoJ) figures obtained by The Observer.

There were 71 cases of smuggled contraband in the prison estate last year – a sharp increase on the 45 cases discovered in 2016.

A spokesperson for the HM Prison Service said the MoJ was now considering whether a new corruption offence, specific to the smuggling problem, might help tackle the problem.

Prison reform groups claimed staff cuts have left remaining officers unable to deal with widespread drug use and increasingly susceptible to corruption.

Earlier this week The Independent revealed a third of prison officers who leave the service quit within a year of starting. A total of 694 staff leaving in the past 12 months had been in the service for less than a year.

Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “The huge failure of prisons has been that so many staff have been taken out. What that has done is to make prisons unstable, to make them dangerous places to work and [has led] to a loss of a lot of experienced staff.”

Drugs were found 35 times a day in prisons in England and Wales on average last year. The number of discoveries has trebled since 2014.

The Prison Officers Association has estimated the value of the drug market inside prisons at around £100m.

Mr Dawson said the government was failing to support rehabilitation work inside prisons. “You have a huge number of people who have nothing to do, who have no hope and for whom drugs are one way of making the time pass.”

Earlier this year Phil Wheatley, former head of the prison service, blamed budget cuts and “poor political decisions” for Britain's prison crisis.

Centre for Social Justice director Andy Cook said the smuggling figures were “deeply concerning” and said ministers needed to “get a grip”.

Mr Cook added: “Drugs are at the heart of this, fuelling violence, suicide and completely undermining the likelihood that prisoners will be able to turn their lives around.”

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