Almost quarter of inmates at Kent prison test positive for illegal drugs

Nearly a quarter of a prison’s inmates failed random drug tests, according to a report.

Some 22% of prisoners tested positive during mandatory screening at HMP Elmley, inspectors found during an unannounced visit in April and May.

Nearly half of the inmates said it was “easy” to get illegal drugs while behind bars.

Despite this, there was “no comprehensive drug supply reduction strategy”, according to the latest HM Inspectorate of Prisons report.

The large category B prison on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent holds around 1,100 prisoners with a “significant number of foreign nationals and sex offenders”.

In his report, chief inspector of prisons Peter Clarke said: “Despite nearly half of prisoners telling us that it was easy to obtain illicit drugs in the prison, and 22% testing positive during random mandatory drug tests, there was no comprehensive drug supply reduction strategy.

“Intelligence was not being used as well as it should have been, and there had been hardly any intelligence-led drug tests carried out, despite the ready availability of such intelligence.

“Although levels of violence were lower than in similar prisons, a quarter of prisoners still told us they felt unsafe.

“To address this, the prison should conduct more thorough investigations into violence when it occurs and gain an understanding of what is driving it.”

There had been two suicides since the last inspection in 2015 but “care for those in crisis or at risk of self-harm was reasonably good”.

Inexperienced staff were not challenging bad behaviour among inmates, according to the report.

The inspection found the prison was not as safe as it had been over the past four years and standards were regarded as “not sufficiently good”, but Mr Clarke said it was “not without hope” as weaknesses were “clearly understood” by bosses who had plans to tackle the concerns.

Phil Copple, director general for prisons, said: “It is clear there is still work to be done at Elmley, particularly to prevent drugs getting in, but I am pleased inspectors have confidence in the ability of the governor and his staff to drive improvements.

“An extra £100 million is being invested to improve security across the estate. A new head of drug strategy in Elmley will tackle drugs using sniffer dogs and search teams. Thorough investigations into violence will be conducted to learn lessons from every incident, boosting the experience of staff and making the prison safer.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Prison (c) Gareth Fuller / PA Wire.