Crime in Prisons: study reveals prison staff and visitors are linked with organised crime

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Four Police and Crime Commissioners across the West Midlands are presenting to the government a hard-hitting six-month study into crime in prisons.

An information sharing pilot at HMP Dovegate, a Category 2 prison in Staffordshire, resulted in not only identifying prison staff linked with organised crime, but also visitors who were trafficking drugs into the prison.

The Dovegate pilot identified a female visitor as a drug trafficker, who was visiting numerous inmates and was then banned.

Staffordshire’s Commissioner, Matthew Ellis, has taken a lead on the work on behalf of all West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioners and visited prisons throughout the region.

Staffordshire itself has 8 prisons – one of the highest number of prisons in a single county across the country.

Mr. Ellis commissioned Staffordshire University’s Professor James Treadwell and Dr. Kate Gooch, from the University of Leicester, who are both experts in the field, to carry out the in-depth study.

The government is now installing body scanners in some prisons to stop drugs getting into the facilities.

Over the six-month study they spoke to prisoners, prison governors, staff and multiple agencies.

Staffordshire Commissioner for Police, Fire and Rescue and Crime, Mr Ellis said: “Prisons and police sharing intelligence and data is an ideal example of the simple measures that can be taken to stop organised crime in its tracks. 

“I’m sure many people would be surprised that this does not already happen as a matter of course, but it doesn’t. 

“The pilot at Dovegate showed how easy it should be to stop gang members ever being employed in prisons – somewhere they should never be working”.

They have presented a future plan with straightforward solutions to tackle criminality across the prisons estate.

Mr. Ellis said: “I found all of the people I met during my visits and through confidential inquiry sessions to be dedicated, passionate and committed to improving how prisons function for prisoners and staff.

“Prisons must be places of law and order, where staff are confident and in control and where criminality is targeted and challenged, not allowed to thrive.”

The improvements are focused on five key areas, from ensuring crime doesn’t pay by taking money off criminals, to sharing information, to ensuring vulnerable inmates are protected from those who would use them to bring drugs into prisons.

Mr. Ellis continued to say:  ‘I’m confident these simple, sensible solutions coupled with the dedication of prison staff and partner agencies can see real change in how we approach criminality in prisons.’

The five-point plan is as follows:

1.    Multi-agency working:

Making sure that all agencies work better together to develop new ways of working, share best practice, work through barriers and issues and challenge each other to reduce criminality on the prison estate. Sharing information and intelligence is a simple yet effective example of how working better together can have a major impact.

2.    Prevention

Making sure that vulnerable individuals are protected and safeguarded from being coerced or threatened to bring drugs or other contraband into prisons. Ensuring drug addiction in prisons is addressed through treatment and ongoing support. Creating physical and other barriers to drugs being brought into prisons. Addressing staff corruption through intelligence sharing and recruitment practices.   

3.    Short term sentences

Carrying on the multi-agency approach to understand why short term sentences are so ineffective at preventing re-offending and developing a local plan to address this, linked to the national work being carried out by the Justice Secretary. 

4.    Taking money from organised criminals

Ensuring that there is better local use of financial investigation and asset confiscation powers that takes money from criminals. Targeting local police, prison and intelligence resources to create disruption in this area using the powers alongside other interventions that impact on ill-gotten gains. Working with the new national financial investigation unit to maximise impact in the West Midlands.    

5.    Dealing with crimes in prison:

Making sure that the police, prison staff and staff from other agencies, such as probation work together to address criminal behaviour in prisons themselves. This can incentivise good behaviour, empower prisons to take the right action and ensure that vulnerable inmates are safeguarded and where necessary, redirected.

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