New staff grade will ease burden on prison officers

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Prison governor Steve Guy-Gibbens said the appointment of 16 men and women to support prison officers in their work is likely to give the officers more time for such checks.

The governor was speaking during the week in which the Royal Court was told that inmate Gareth Hume (25) had used a mobile to organise an operation from La Moye Prison in August 2005 involving drugs worth up to £643,000.

Hume was jailed this week for 15 years for that offence and for being a runner in another case in 2004 involving drugs worth up to £743,000.

Asked if the prison had reviewed their policy of monitoring inmates for mobile phone possession in view of this case, the governor said the policy remained unchanged – mobile phones were a prohibited article.

He said that every prison experienced difficulty in preventing mobile phones being brought in – even the highest security establishments for terrorists.

‘I am not being complacent, but mobile phones are now smaller and cheaper than ever before, making things even more difficult,’ he said.

He believed that most phones brought in were thrown over the perimeter fence.

‘It may also happen when prisoners go out on temporary release and hide them on their person on their return,’ he said.

He acknowledged that searches on prisoners returning from leave were not as thorough or as frequent as they could be because of pressure on staffing.

He hoped that the new staff would ease the pressure on officers so thjat they could concentrate on their main role.

Figures in the HMI report on La Moye Prison showed that 90 mobile phones were confiscated there over 18 months.

The appointment of new support staff is being made possible because they are being partly funded by the reduced overtime levels officers are now working.

After an initial four weeks’ training the new staff will have a range of duties but their role will not involve direct supervision of prisoners.

Eighty people have applied for the jobs and are due to be interviewed next week.

The duties are likely to include staffing the prison gate and control room, monitoring CCTV cameras and escorting official visitors and contractors around the prison.

On the question of drug use in prison, Mr Guy-Gibbens said that illegal substances were not found very frequently but that did not mean they were not there.

All goods brought in by visitors for prisoners are screened before being passed on to inmates.

He said there was a possibility drugs wrapped in cling-film might be passed by a relative or friend during a kiss.

But when asked if such intimacy should therefore be prevented, he said he did not wish to operate a policy of no physical contact at all.

‘Obviously, if we have intelligence this might happen or someone has abused the system we do impose restrictions on physical contact,’ he said.

A new law is coming in soon making it mandatory for inmates to agree to a drug test if required – at present this can take place only with their consent.

‘This could be a deterrent if they know they are liable to be tested and, if found positive, will have sanctions imposed on them,’ said the governor.

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