Drug smuggling into Kirkham Open Prison has been slammed as “easy” in a hard-hitting annual inspection report.
Officers from the Independent Monitoring Board say lack of staff and detection equipment at the Category D jail has led to a worrying rise in drug use during 2018, particularly cocaine.
And the Board has pointed the finger at poor security checks on inmates returning from working outside the jail or on home visits.
As a result the IMB has urged the Prisons Minister to ensure improved detection of drugs at HMP Kirkham, coupled with a more robust clampdown on mobile phones.
And the government appointed body has asked the Governor why the onsite North West Search Dog team is not being used more proactively to search for contraband, or to check out
prisoners when they return from work or day/weekend release.
“As an open establishment where prisoners are working out, whether supervised or not, or going on release on temporary licence, it is easy for drugs to be brought back into the prison,” says the report.
“Random searches are done when prisoners return. But there is neither the staff nor the equipment to search every prisoner on their return.
“An investment in staff and detection equipment would start to make inroads into this problem and would help to send out the message that drugs are not tolerated in prisons.”
During 2018 Kirkham had a prison population of between 551 and 649.
Figures showed that during the year 18 inmates had absconded - a slight drop on 21 from 2017.
“A number of absconds have occurred due to unsuitability for an open prison as well as drug debt problems,” adds the report. “A further 21 prisoners presented themselves to staff as abscond risks, so had they purely absconded then the figures would be a lot higher.
“Availability and use of drugs has escalated within the establishment. It is essential that more detection of drugs and disablement systems for associated mobile phones are made available.
“The apparent easy access to contraband, mainly drugs, continues to be of concern to the Board. Prisoners are using original drugs of choice like cannabis and heroin, but the Board are concerned that there now appears to be a rise in the use of cocaine.
“Although drug testing continues at the same rate, the number of either positive or suspicious reults has risen. It is important that the Prison Service tackles more robustly the drug culture within prisons.”
The inspectors found there had been a number of incidents of violence at Kirkham during 2018, mostly down to bullying, drugs - including bullying inmates into trafficking drugs - and debt issues.
“There does appear to be an increase in bullying and verbal threats, which are mainly attributed to drug debt and intimidation” adds the report.
Those apart, the prison was said generally to be a “safe” environment for both prisoners and staff. Living conditions were considered to be “good” and the food was rated “excellent.”