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Cell phones still a problem at Kirkham Prison

The number of inmates at Kirkham Prison found to have a mobile phone has significantly fallen.

But figures released this morning show there were still hundreds of devices found last year. 

In 2014, there was a discovery rate of almost 90 per 100 prisoners - that was the worst in the UK.

In 2017 that figure had dropped to just over 57 per 100 - still more than three times the national average, but Kirkham's lowest rate since 2010.

Prisons in the UK are awash with mobile phones, with thousands confiscated every year and many more going undetected. They are a valuable illegal resource, allowing inmates to continue a life of crime unhindered by locked doors.

In England and Wales, the total number of confiscations of mobile phones and SIM cards has risen from 9,640 in 2014 to 15,082 in 2017, a 56% rise.  

The rate of discoveries has increased from an average of nine discoveries per 100 prisoners in 2011, to at least 18 per 100 prisoners last year.  Or the equivalent of one in six inmates was found with a handset in 2017.

A Prison Service spokesperson said: ''These statistics show that we are successfully stopping contraband from entering the prison estate. Better intelligence and improved security measures are allowing us to catch more illicit items than ever before.
 
''However, we acknowledge that more must be done and as Minister [Rory] Stewart has previously stated, there are only five ways in which contraband can be smuggled into prisons and we are taking steps to tackle all five. We’ve addressed flying contraband in by tackling drones, the throwing over of items by the use of nets and searches, the dragging in of items by identifying wires and the posting of drugs by photocopying letters.
 
''We are also taking decisive action to find and block mobile phones, including a £2m investment in detection equipment. We have legislated to stop phones from being used in prisons.  In addition, 300 specialist prison dogs have been trained in drugs detection to help stem the flow of illicit substances into our prisons, allowing officers to focus their efforts on reforming and turning the lives around of offenders.

''The measures are part of a much wider strategy to tackle the most pressing threats to security in prisons and backed by a strengthening of the frontline with an additional 3,111 prison officers in place at the end of March 2018 than were in post in October 2016.''

''It must be clear that it is a criminal offence to bring a mobile phone into prison, or transmit sounds or images from within a prison using a mobile phone. These offences carry a maximum penalty of two years in prison.

''Our prisons must remain an environment of rehabilitation, and appropriate communication is provided for prisoners to stay connected to family and friends.

''As with all contraband, stopping the flow means creating prisons that are safe, with orderly, purposeful and structured regimes, free from violence, intimidation and self-harm. It means creating prisons that are decent with clean wings and humane living conditions.''

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