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Welsh prisons report

by Mark Rowe

Smuggling of drugs and mobile phones is behind a decline in prison safety, according to a Welsh Affairs Committee report on Welsh prisons more generally. Significant numbers of English prisoners based in Welsh prisons cause tensions that can quickly turn to violence, MPs heard.

The report by MPs said: “During our visits we heard that one of the key challenges faced in prisons was violent behaviour caused by the drug ‘Spice’. This was especially prevalent in prisons where there were high levels of population turnover as it proved difficult to search each prisoner. We were also told that prisoners on licence recalls, who were brought back in custody for 14 days, also represented a high-risk group in facilitating the influx of illegal substances.”

The MPs found a fall in Welsh prison performance and pointed to problems with staff recruitment and retention, ‘something that appears to be an issue across prisons in England and Wales’. Assaults on staff had become more common, resulting in a higher number of police referrals. “We were told that funding reductions since 2010 had resulted in a strain on services and lack of staff to deal with violent incidents.”

Chairman of the Welsh Affairs Committee, Conservtive MP for Monmouth David TC Davies said: “It is essential that Welsh prisons retain experienced staff to ensure they are equipped deal with growing safety threats, such as smuggling of drugs and mobile phones. The UK Government needs a strategy to ensure experienced staff are retained, and new staff are well-trained.”

The committee heard that scanners are due in some prisons by August, and are expected to be running in all Welsh prisons by December. While full-body scanners would improve security, as induction units often seemed to be the main thoroughfare for drugs and phones, the MPs were told that smuggled items could also be flown into prison in parcels via drones, and that psychoactive substances were delivered through the mail, and were virtually undetectable.

For the 48-page report in full visit The committee heard from witnesses including Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons; and in January, Ministry of Justice junior minister Rory Stewart, since promoted to the Cabinet.

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