'Easy to get drugs' in at Chelmsford prison say inmates

Chelmsford Prison
Image caption The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) says prison safety is 'fundamental' to the 'proper functioning' of the justice system

Nearly half of inmates claim it is "easy" to get drugs an Essex prison, a poll has found.

The survey of prisoners was carried out nationally by HM Inspectorate of Prisons.

The inspectorate said the availability of drugs at HMP Chelmsford is "far worse" than at similar prisons.

The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) said prison safety was "fundamental" to the "proper functioning" of the justice system.

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The survey found 47% of Chelmsford inmates said it was easy to get illegal drugs - compared with a 38% average at comparable prisons.

New psychoactive substances - previously known as legal highs - were identified as the main problem, according to the report.

Image caption Chelmsford prison is 'competently run', says the HM Inspectorate of Prisons

It said management at HMP Chelmsford, a medium-sized jail holding up to 745 mainly adult men, had responded pro-actively to address the issue of the substances.

'Chronic overcrowding'

"Violence and bullying had increased sharply and there was evidence that this was linked to drugs and debt," the report said.

Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons, described Chelmsford as a prison "in transition", saying: "Overall it was competently run with obvious strengths to build on, despite some disappointing findings."

Andrew Neilson, of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: "This is the latest in a long series of inspection reports that reveal how the prison system is failing as it contends with the disastrous consequences of chronic overcrowding and deep cuts to budgets."

Phil Copple, NOMS chief operating officer, said: "The report recognises real strengths at Chelmsford, particularly the positive relationships between staff and prisoners, but there is clearly more to do.

"Reducing violence levels and working to address the increase in self-inflicted deaths is a crucial part of this.

"The governor and his staff deserve recognition for their proactive work to tackle the major challenge of psychoactive substances, which will enable improvements in safety and order."

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