225kg Of Drugs And 13,000 Mobile Phones Found In Prisons

More than 200 kilograms of drugs and 13,000 mobile phones were found in prisons last year as the Government admitted the situation was "unacceptable".

The haul of contraband seized in prisons, which also included 7,000 mobile phone sim cards, illustrates the scale of the challenge facing prison officers who have had to cope with staff cuts and increased violence over recent years.

Prisons minister Sam Gyimah acknowledged the issues would not be resolved overnight but praised the efforts of staff to tackle the problems and highlighted the Government's recruitment drive to increase officer numbers.

Figures released by the Ministry of Justice showed 225kg of drugs were recovered across the prison estate in England and Wales in 2016.

The seizure of mobile phones and sim cards helped thwart efforts by inmates to continue plotting further crimes from behind bars, the ministry said.

Officials said a £2 million investment in technology to detect phones and 300 specialist dogs trained to find drugs had helped recover the illegal items.

But Mr Gyimah acknowledged more needed to be done, including the recruitment of extra prison officers.

He said: "I have been clear that the current levels of violence, drugs and mobile phones in our prisons is unacceptable. We have put in place a number of measures to help disrupt this illegal activity as it is an issue I am absolutely determined to resolve.

"These figures highlight the determination of prison staff to disrupt this behaviour, whilst at the same time sending a clear message that we will push to prosecute anyone who involves themselves in this kind of activity.

"The issues within our prisons will not be resolved overnight, but we must make progress in tackling these problems. Bringing in more frontline staff is an integral part of that.

"The number of prison officers in post is on the rise, meaning we are on track to achieving the recruitment of 2,500 officers by 2018."

Justice Secretary David Lidington admitted there were "very severe problems" in the prisons system.

He told Sky News' Sophy Ridge On Sunday: "I would share the view that my predecessor, Liz Truss, expressed publicly in a white paper of November last year that at the moment prisons are not working in the way that we want them to do.

"There's too much violence, too much self-harm, too many drugs getting into prisons and we are not making enough use of the time we have people in prison to get them educated, get them to take on skills that make them employable when they're released and less likely to commit crimes again.

"There's a programme of work that we've got, including targeted spending, to deliver improvements."

Peter Dawson, Prison Reform Trust, said the figures were "eye-watering" and called on the Government to tackle the demand for drugs in prisons.

"Life in prison for many many people is simply too idle, it's enforced idleness, it's boredom, there's no hope," he told BBC Breakfast.

"Some people are going into prison with a drug problem, and some people are starting to use drugs as a way of coping."