Prison that saw five ‘drug deaths’ in eight months had scanning equipment diverted to another jail

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A prison that noticed 5 suspected drug deaths in simply eight months was promised scanning gear by the federal government, just for it to be delivered to a different jail, a report mentioned.

Inspectors mentioned employees at HMP Durham have been “immensely annoyed by the truth that they’d no trendy expertise out there to them to assist their efforts to stem the circulation of medicine”. 

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons mentioned: “We have been advised that they’d been promised some trendy scanning gear however that it had been diverted to a different jail. The dimensions of the issue at HMP Durham and the plain linkage to all types of violence have been such that technological assist was urgently wanted.”


An inspection discovered seven prisoners had killed themselves because the final inspection in December 2016 and one other 5 had died suspected drug-related deaths.

Violent incidents doubled within the interval and using pressure by jail officers trebled. Greater than 350 acts of self-harm have been recorded in simply six months.

Ian Carson, the Jail Officers’ Affiliation consultant for the north-east, accused the federal government of prioritising 10 jails that minister Rory Stewart vowed to improve or resign.

Whereas justice secretary David Gauke has named the unfold of former “authorized highs” as a driver of violence, Mr Carson advised The Impartial that jail officers felt “disempowered” by coverage modifications and price range cuts. 

“The basic details are relationships broke down, we had much less employees and we misplaced management,” he mentioned. 

HMP Durham is amongst quite a few jails criticised by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, whereas others have been topic to uncommon “pressing notifications” over spiralling violence, drug use and suicide in what campaigners say is a nationwide crisis.

The “closely overcrowded” jail held 872 inmates on the time of the inspection. Its regular capability was 595. 

Inspectors discovered greater than 80 per cent of cells designed for one held two folks.

As a reception jail, HMP Durham holds primarily inmates who’re on remand or topic to recall and nearly three quarters had been imprisoned there for beneath three months on the time of the inspection.

Important numbers of prisoners mentioned they arrived feeling depressed or suicidal, two thirds mentioned they’d psychological well being issues and a 3rd felt unsafe.

A survey discovered 66 per cent mentioned it was “straightforward” to acquire medicine and one other 30 per cent advised inspectors they’d acquired a drug behavior since coming into the jail. 

Though one in 10 prisoners presenting a excessive threat of hurt, many have been being managed by supervisors “who had neither the coaching, expertise nor sufficient supervision to deal” with them, inspectors discovered. 

Regardless of some early indicators that violence was beginning to decline, security at HMP Durham remained poor, they mentioned.

Mr Clarke mentioned enhancements have been being made, together with new in-cell telephones, video hyperlinks to courts and using extra facilities, however he warned: “Essentially the most urgent wants are to familiarize yourself with the violence of all types, make the jail safer and cut back the circulation of medicine. Solely then will the advantages circulation from the numerous creditable initiatives which can be being applied.”


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The Impartial understands that HMP Durham has nonetheless not acquired drug scanning gear, however it’s anticipated to reach within the coming months.

Mr Stewart, the prisons minister, mentioned: “We’re decided to put in full airport-style safety with the best canines, expertise, scanners and search groups to detect medicine. We are going to set up the expertise in Durham and we will probably be rolling it out throughout our native prisons. Tackling medicine is significant for lowering violence.”

Michael Spurr, chief govt of HM jail and probation service, mentioned progress was being made on “important challenges”.

“For the reason that introduction of the jail officer key employee scheme, violent incidents, self-harm and disruptive behaviour have all diminished,” he mentioned. “The jail can be working carefully with the police and the NHS to deal with illicit drug use. We’re creating a nationwide technique to limit provide, cut back demand and construct restoration.

“As a part of this course of we are going to think about which measures, together with expertise, may be applied to additional strengthen the jail’s method to tackling medicine. We’re beneath no illusions that there’s a lot nonetheless to do.”

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