Increase in drugs found by staff at The Mount prison in Bovingdon

The figures are from the Ministry of Justice

Friday, 7th August 2020, 12:31 pm
Updated Friday, 7th August 2020, 12:34 pm

There has been an increase in the number of drugs being uncovered by staff during searches at The Mount prison in Bovingdon.

Ministry of Justice data reveals 345 searches uncovered drugs within HMP Mount in the year to March 2020 – significantly up from 193 the previous year.

Over the same period, 28 per cent of the mandatory drug tests conducted in the prison returned a positive result, while in 2018-19, the figure stood at 31 per cent.

Prison stock image

The figures include psychoactive substances, the abuse of which have increasingly become a concern for prison staff nationally, as well as so-called traditional drugs such as cannabis and methadone.

The most common single drug type found to have been taken in The Mount prison was cannabis, which was found in 69 per cent of samples.

These figures cover the period before the coronavirus pandemic and the introduction of regime restrictions - with only one week of crossover at the end of March 2020 or less than two per cent of the period.

There were reductions in positive tests for both psychoactive substances and traditional drugs in March 2020 which incorporates the only week covering both the report and regime restrictions.

Across England and Wales, a record 21,575 searches by prison staff revealed drugs in the year to March 2020, with prisoners failing 14 per cent of random drug tests.

The news comes as drug finds in jails across England and Wales reached a record high – but prison reform charity the Howard League has warned confiscations do not show "the true scale of the problem".

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said drugs are a "scourge" in prisons.

She added: "Ministers have spent millions on tightening security, and this may be having an effect, but the best way to reduce the supply of drugs into prisons is to reduce the demand for them.

"Staff time spent monitoring scanners would be better deployed in building relationships and working with people in prison to keep them occupied with work, education, training and exercise."

Ms Crook said this is one of the reasons why current Covid-19 restrictions in prisons should be eased "safely and as soon as possible".

During the pandemic, prisoners have been unable to take part in recreational activities such as using gyms and libraries or going to worship.

Last year, Her Majesty's Prison and Probation Service set out plans to crack down on the misuse of drugs in prison, with a focus on restricting supply, reducing demand and building recovery services.

As part of the strategy, HMPPS pledged to reduce the proportion of random mandatory drugs tests that are found to be positive by March this year.

Separate figures reveal that The Mount prison did not meet its 17% target for traditional drugs tests in the year to March 2020. The 13 per cent target for psychoactive substances was also missed, although the data for this only covers a four-month period.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “We are finding and stopping more drugs thanks to the tough new measures brought in by this Government, such as airport-style security and x-ray body scanners.

“It would be highly misleading to draw conclusions on the impact of restricted regimes during lockdown as the report does not cover this period.”

The Government is investing £2.75 billion to transform the prison estate:

- with up to £2.5 billion to provide 10,000 additional prison places and create modern, efficient jails that rehabilitate offenders, reduce reoffending and keep the public safe.

- a further £100 million will also bolster prison security, clamping down on the weapons, drugs and mobile phones that fuel violence, self-harm and crime behind bars.

- an additional £156 million to tackle the most pressing maintenance issues.