Prison staff seize 40 illicit items a week from inmates
MORE than 2,200 illicit items, including drugs, weapons and mobile phones, have been confiscated from prisoners in Scottish jails since January last year.
Statistics obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show prison officers are seizing nearly 40 items a week.
Prison staff last night compared the task of confiscating such items to the painting of the Forth Bridge.
The figures raised concerns among all political parties, and there have been calls for more action to be taken to stop drugs and other prohibited articles getting into jails.
Of the 2,286 smuggled items seized by prison officers in the past 15 months, the largest number related to drugs: there were 1,131 of those, including needles and syringes.
The greatest number of drugs found were at Barlinnie jail in Glasgow (261), Cornton Vale women's prison near Stirling (212) and Perth (205). No drugs were found at Glenochil, Clackmannanshire, or at Peterhead.
Kenny MacAskill, the SNP's justice spokesman, said: "This is worrying. We cannot have drugs awash in our prisons. They are for punishment and to rehabilitate prisoners from drugs, not a pharmacy."
Margaret Mitchell, the Scottish Tories' justice spokesman, said: "We know drugs are rife in prison. That is why we are calling for more random tests and more investigations generally to eradicate drugs from prisons permanently.
"Prisoners are becoming ever more ingenious, and more needs to be done to stop the trade of drug smuggling."
The figures also show more than 175 weapons, blades and knives were confiscated over the past 15 months. Most weapons were found in Barlinnie (28) and Perth (27). Only two prisons - Glenochil and Noranside, in Angus - turned up no weapons.
Illicit mobile phones are also finding their way into Scotland's 16 prisons, which house a total of 7,320 inmates. Some 450 phones, including equipment such as SIM cards and chargers, were confiscated.
Other items confiscated throughout Scotland included CDs and videos, computer games consoles and darts.
Jeremy Purvis, the justice spokesman for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said: "These figures are unacceptable and highlight one of the side effects of chronic overcrowding in our prisons."
Derek Turner, the Scottish secretary of the Prison Officers' Association, said: "It's a continual problem taking stuff off prisoners. It's like painting the Forth Bridge - a never-ending job."
Tom Fox, the head of communications at the Scottish Prison Service, said: "There is a considerable problem with people trying to introduce contraband goods into prison.
"These figures show the vigilance of our prison staff. Obviously, there will be stuff we don't check. A lot of stuff people bring in body cavities, and we don't have the facilities to check everyone."
Cathy Jamieson, the justice minister, said: "Scottish prisons are working hard to confiscate items, and we will want to ensure that everything possible is done to stop drugs and drugs paraphernalia getting into prisons."
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