Widespread Prison Officer Corruption Soaring, Report Reveals

by Henry Fisher

In a welcome investigation published this morning, Buzzfeed reveals how the widespread corruption of prison officers is flooding the UK’s jails with drugs.

How Corrupt Officers are Fuelling the Explosion of Prison Violence examines how prison guards are smuggling in contraband to jails, fuelling violence behind bars.

A Freedom of Information request submitted by Buzzfeed shows that the number of prison officers expelled or punished for corruption has nearly doubled in the last five years.

Senior politicians have responded to its findings by calling on the Government to launch an independent public inquiry.

The investigation starkly reveals the reality of corruption inside the country’s prisons and the extent to which the problem is worsening as funding cuts, reduced staff numbers, overcrowding and a lack of any meaningful rehabilitative opportunities continue to bite.

But Buzzfeed’s investigation is testament to Government failure to tackle the huge demand for drugs in prisons or introduce measures to better understand how drugs enter prisons, incentivising a small minority of overstretched prison staff to be drawn into corruption.

In a report to be published by VolteFace on Thursday, High Stakes: An Inquiry into the Drugs Crisis in English Prisons, we will show how the Government’s emphasis on mandatory drugs testing, sniffer dogs, scanners and punishment for inmates caught using inside is the wrong approach.

By focusing on measures which seek to identify drug users rather than measures to reduce the demand for drugs and better understand how drugs are supplied into prisons, the Government is failing to effectively manage and monitor the drug market.

High Stakes will argue that an approach of risk management, not zero tolerance must be adopted. That the demand for drugs in prisons needs to be tackled through increased purposeful activity for inmates, more staff need to be recruited for a genuine intelligence-led approach to confronting the drug market and an overhaul of how prison’s monitor prisoners’ the drug market.

Above all, the Government must be willing to engage in an honest and pragmatic dialogue which aims to reduce the harms caused by drugs and the drug market.

Words by Hardeep Matharu. Tweets @Hardeep_Matharu

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