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Contraband still a problem in prison

DRUGS and mobile phones continue to reach inmates in Ford Prison.


A new report reveals efforts to stop the influx of banned items at the open prison have been only partly successful.


The prison’s Independent Monitoring Board of volunteer visitors has recently published its review of the prison up to the end of last October.


It states: “The infiltration of contraband (most notably drugs, mobile phones and SIM cards) continues to be a major challenge for the prison management.


“The long-awaited installation of additional CCTV and other security measures covering the eastern (residential) side of the establishment has greatly reduced the volume of contraband thrown over the perimeter fence.


“However, there has been an increase in contraband found on the western side.


“The prison conducts mandatory drugs tests on prisoners. During the reporting year, the failure rate has fallen by seven per cent to 3.7 per cent. All prisoners are tested on arrival and one month later.”


Ford is a category D prison with an emphasis on resettlement. It was converted in 1960 from a former Fleet Air Arm station.


It has 546 male prisoners. Nearly half of them are lifers, indeterminate sentence prisoners or multi-agency public protection arrangement cases. None is serving sentences for sex offences.


A total of 199 were returned to closed conditions during the year under review for breaking prison rules.


An improvement welcomed by the board was the introduction of batons for night staff on patrol as well as the body worn cameras used by 95 per cent of staff.


“The use of body worn cameras has had a positive impact in violence reduction by defusing confrontations which might otherwise have escalated, and in recording evidence of misdemeanours,” the board states.


Much of the prison’s accommodation – a mix of a brick-built block with 274 single rooms and several smaller billets, with two prisoners to a room – dates from the military use. The board was concerned by the condition of the facilities.


Its report says: “There is a lack of funds for infrastructure improvement. When any money becomes available, the implementation process is tortuous, resulting in severe delays. Preventative planned maintenance is totally lacking.”


Much work has been carried out by the prison’s staff and prisoners but the performance of the nationally-appointed contractor was a real concern, the report says.


Equipment in the main kitchen breaks down frequently as well as the machines in the launderette used by prisoners.


But the prison’s education and training work was commended by the board.


On-site vocational courses are available along with distance learning. More than 60 prisoners were also attending college.


The library at the prison was another success. At least 1,500 visits are made a month and it was in the top ten of the Bookseller’s library of the year 2018 awards.

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