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Prison security crisis: Instagram photos show inmates with drugs, cash and weapons

The prison officers association blamed the situation on funding cuts

Kashmira Gander
Thursday 29 January 2015 21:36 GMT
A shot of drug use posted on social media
A shot of drug use posted on social media (Channel 4 News)

The lack of security at some UK prisons has been laid bare, as prisoners post images of drugs, cash and even a dangerous weapon on their social media accounts.

The photos obtained by Channel 4 News reveal contraband, violence, piles of cash and alleged drug dealing, with one picture showing a prisoner with a potentially lethal lock knife.

A recent prisoner who now blogs under an alias told the programme that prisons are “awash” with drugs, adding that prison officers and other members of staff smuggle contraband into facilities.

"Prisons are awash with drugs both legal (legal highs) and illegal. The main way that they come into prisons is through staff. The amount that prisoners or visitors can smuggle in is minute compared to the amount that is available on the prison wing."

Pictures of drugs posted on social media by a prisoner from jail (Channel 4 News)

In 2013 the number of mobile phones retrieved by prison staff was 7,451 - despite the fact that prisoners found with smart phones can have up to two years added to their sentence.

According to the latest figures from the Ministry of Justice, the number of drug seizures in prisons has significantly increased. In the year to the end of March 2011, there were 3,700 drug seizures which had risen to nearly 4,500 in 2013-14.

Peter McFarlin, chairman of the prison officers association (POA), told the programme that security operations in UK prisons have become "impossible" due to lack of staff: "It's extremely disheartening for professional prison staff, but they need resources to be able to combat that sort of activity.

He continued: "Since 2010, 7,500 frontline operational prison staff have left the service, 3,500 in one calendar year to 2014 - that means that targeted searching is not taking place, basic searching is not taking place, intelligence-led operations are going to be impossible to perform within the prison as they were in the past."

Images of a prisoner holding bags of drugs posted on Instagram (Channel 4 News)

Responding to the revelations, the Ministry of Justice said: “We will never tolerate the use of contraband in prisons and will continue to clamp down on the use of any illicit items or substances.

“Prisons already use a comprehensive range of robust searching and security measures to detect items of contraband with intelligence-led searches, body searches, use of x-ray machines, metal detectors and CCTV surveillance cameras, as well as body orifice scanners all helping to tackle the use of mobile phones.

“Any prisoner who is caught or suspected for smuggling prohibited items will face tough consequences, which could include prosecution and a further sentence, closed visits, up to 42 days added to their time in prison or confinement to their cell for up to 21 days with no association time.”

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