Anti-drugs nets at Chelmsford Prison destroyed by snowfall, independent board reveals
Drugs are flooding into an Essex prison after snow wrecked anti-narcotic nets left out over winter, it has been revealed.
Staff at HMP Chelmsford forgot to reel in the nets during December, and now criminals outside the prison walls can easily launch contraband into the internal exercise yards.
The nets were installed last year at Chelmsford Prison at a “very considerable expense” and are already out of action.
The watchdog for the Category-B site revealed the failure yesterday (Wednesday, February 24), which has been blamed on failed contractor Carillion.
Nick Adams, from the prison’s independent monitoring board, said: “Quite a while ago, during the last major snowfall, they should have retracted netting which was over the main part of the prison, stopping people throwing contraband into the prison.
“This netting had been installed at very considerable expense and should have been retracted before the snow fell.
“It wasn’t. The netting came down and to my knowledge has not yet been replaced.
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“At the moment it is all too easy for drugs to get into the prison as a result.”
He added: “I can say there are more drugs in prison now and the netting has been a contributing factor.”
The news comes after a damning report revealed staff members are assaulted every three days, and three prisoners are thought to have committed suicide in 2016.
The Howard League for Penal Reform probe also revealed drug abuse was at record levels, with 17.5% of prisoners failing tests in 2016/2017.
A spokesman for the prison service said: “HMP Chelmsford has already taken significant action to address the concerns raised by the independent monitoring board.
“There has been significant investment in improving safety and reducing violence including the introduction of body-worn cameras, upgrading CCTV, and additional drug netting.
“Staff remain vigilant to the threat of drugs being smuggled into prison and those caught smuggling contraband will face the full force of the law.”
In November the East Anglian Daily Times revealed the level of drugs and weapons being found in Suffolk’s prisons, at Hollesley Bay and Highpoint.