HMP Kirkham: 'Easy access' to drugs and rise in cocaine use, report finds

HMP Kirkham Image copyright Google
Image caption The report found a concerning escalation in cocaine use at the open prison

Inmates at an open prison in Lancashire find it "easy" to smuggle drugs into the jail after work or day release, a report found.

The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) also found a worrying rise in cocaine use at HMP Kirkham near Preston.

Inspectors urged the prisons minister to clamp down on drug smuggling and mobile phones at the category D jail.

A prison service spokesman said searches and mandatory drug testing had been increased following the visit.

'Easy access'

The monitoring board, made up of unpaid members of the public, said the prison, near Preston, was operating at maximum capacity in 2018, housing up to 649 of the lowest risk, category D inmates.

Inspectors said they were concerned by the "easy access" to drugs, including cannabis and heroin, with an apparent rise in the use of cocaine.

They said it was "easy for drugs to be brought back" and though random searches are done, "there is neither the staff nor the equipment to search every prisoner on their return".

The report challenged the prison service to tackle "more robustly the drug culture" and said it is "essential that more detection of drugs and disablement systems for the associated mobile phones are made available."

It called for more investment and questioned why the search dog team based on site was not "used more proactively".

Murderer caught after fleeing open jail

The review said most violent incidents at the jail were "down to bullying, drugs - including bullying to traffic drugs - and debt issues".

The board also urged the prisons minister to make sure only suitable inmates are sent to the open prison after 243 prisoners had to be sent back to closed prisons.

Other findings include:

  • 2018 saw a small decrease in prisoners absconding - 18 compared with 21 in 2017
  • Prisoners were treated "both fairly and humanely" in "good" living conditions
  • Problems with heating and hot water supply
  • Dilapidated buildings, some with asbestos, remain on site after demolition and refurbishment was put on hold

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