Devon

HMP Exeter: Jail makes 'no progress' on tackling drugs

Prison
Image caption Chief Inspector Peter Clarke said a warning last year should have led to immediate action

Prison bosses have failed to address concerns over drug use by inmates, inspectors have said.

Exeter Prison was previously visited in May 2018 by HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) which found widespread drug use was seen as "normal" by staff.

But HMIP has said there has been "no meaningful progress" in tackling the causes of drug use by inmates since.

The Prison Service said "more needs to be done to tackle drugs" and it was introducing "new drug strategies".

HMIP issued an urgent notification to the government after its inspection last year.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said that should have led to "immediate remedial action".

But "this simply had not happened" in "too many critical areas" at Exeter.

In the May 2018 inspection, inspectors found there had been six self-inflicted deaths between 2016 and 2018 and self-harm had risen by 40%.

Image caption The Prison Service said perimeter patrols of the prison had been stepped up

In April 2019, inspectors found overall levels of violence had decreased, though they remained higher than in similar prisons.

Mr Clarke said a "number of actions had been taken to reduce violence", which were "promising".

But there had been an "inexplicable failure to develop a comprehensive drug strategy" which "would certainly contribute to a reduction in violence" and he called for action "as a priority".

He said relationships between staff and prisoners were improving, and there had been improvements in monitoring of cell help bells that were "routinely ignored by staff" in the 2018 inspection.

The Prison Service said "improving safety and security at HMP Exeter" was a "top priority" and it was "pleased that inspectors recognise good progress has been made".

There had also been an increased use of dogs and patrols to stop drugs getting into the prison.

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