Prisons: Criminal Activity and Drug Abuse

Oral Answers to Questions — Justice – in the House of Commons on 5th February 2019.

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Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Conservative, Scarborough and Whitby

What steps the Government have taken to tackle criminal activity and drug abuse in the prisons in the 10 prisons project.

Photo of Rory Stewart Rory Stewart The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

Turning around the problem of drugs in prisons involves focusing on relationships, staff and perimeter security, but for the first time, every one of those 10 prisons will have proper dog teams, X-ray scanners and full airport-style security. I believe that that will drive down the supply of drugs in those prisons, and I expect to be judged on the results.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Conservative, Scarborough and Whitby

The Minister won the admiration of the nation when he put his neck on the line in pursuit of his ambitious targets to reduce drugs and violence in our prisons. What other practical steps is he taking to meet those targets and to ensure that our prisons not only keep prisoners in, but keep drugs out?

Photo of Rory Stewart Rory Stewart The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

As well as ensuring that people are searched at the gates, we are investing more in netting and grilles. We are also investing a great deal more in staff training and support. Last week, I was lucky to be able to visit Newbold Revel, our prison officer training college, to see the passing out parade of the new set of individuals who are bringing standards to those 10 prisons.

Photo of Stephen Hepburn Stephen Hepburn Labour, Jarrow

Violence in prisons has reached record levels, with assaults on prison officers up by 30%. When will the Government realise that their cuts are causing this crisis in our Prison Service?

Photo of Rory Stewart Rory Stewart The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

The assaults on prison officers are genuinely shocking. That is why we have doubled the sentence for such assaults, and why we are investing in perimeter security. It is also why I have said that if I do not bring down the incidence of that violence, including assaults on prison officers, I will resign.

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis Conservative, Banbury

When I last visited HMP Bullingdon, it was explained to me that much of prisoners’ mail is saturated with drugs. How is the plan to photocopy mail where appropriate going?

Photo of Rory Stewart Rory Stewart The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

Every one of the 10 prisons where we are running the pilots will either photocopy the mail or put it through it through a Rapiscanner, which will identify Spice and other psychoactive substances to ensure that prisoners cannot use mail to bring drugs into prison.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

This is my celebration tie for Autism Day, Mr Speaker—a little bit of flamboyance for autism.

Nobody wants our prisons to have a culture of drugs and violence, but can the Minister imagine what it is like to be in prison and not to be guilty? I co-chair the all-party group on miscarriages of justice—we are meeting tonight. Some people do 18 years in prison are then found not guilty, but have no compensation and no reintroduction into society. When are we going to do something about that?

Photo of Rory Stewart Rory Stewart The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

I think that this is a slightly different subject, but I would be very happy to sit down with the hon. Gentleman to look at the rare but tragic cases when somebody is wrongfully convicted.