Governor in prison drugs pledge

A PRISON governor yesterday pledged to crack down on the rising amount of drugs, alcohol and luxury foods being smuggled into his Suffolk jail.Relatives and friends of inmates at Hollesley Bay category D open prison near Woodbridge, are hiding illegal items behind trees and bushes on the public road going through the prison.

By Richard Smith

A PRISON governor yesterday pledged to crack down on the rising amount of drugs, alcohol and luxury foods being smuggled into his Suffolk jail.

Relatives and friends of inmates at Hollesley Bay category D open prison near Woodbridge, are hiding illegal items behind trees and bushes on the public road going through the prison.

They are also dropping off food, including Marks and Spencer picnic hampers, for the prisoners who then hide them from the staff.

But the governor Michael Wood, speaking after the release of a prison watchdog report, warned security measures were about to be tightened to eliminate the "drop offs".

There are closed circuit television cameras filming the area and new cameras will be installed to increase coverage. The jail shares a drug dog with neighbouring Warren Hill prison and Mr Wood is asking for more drug dogs and staff to carry out patrols.

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Mr Wood said: ''The majority of drug finds are normally always cannabis, although I am not saying we do not have class A drugs in the prison. We find a lot here including M&S picnic hampers and all sorts of things because we have a lot of good intelligence.

''We have a programme for substance misuse and if we can reduce the demand then we will reduce the supply. We have positive healthy promotion work going on and we have a substance misuse nurse.''

There is also the CARATS scheme (Counselling, Assessment, Referral, Advice, Throughcare) for the rehabilitation of drug users.

About 200 inmates out of the 300-strong population are on a voluntary drug testing scheme. Every month 10% of the prisoners have a mandatory drug test and for the year ending on December 31 there were 310 random tests of which 15% were positive, mainly for cannabis.

Mr Wood was commenting after the prison's Independent Monitoring Board published its annual report which highlighted a great deal of positive action being taken at the prison.

Board chairman Avery Fraser said: ''The year in retrospect was one of much change, some intangible, showing a transformation of a most positive kind with a staff who show respect, and a leader with incredible energy and enthusiasm to drive Hollesley Bay, in all its diversity, to a cohesive and constructive future."

THE REPORT'S FINDINGS

Absconds: There were 31 absconds last year. Mrs Fraser said: ''A figure no-one is proud of but not a bad picture given the profile of some of the prisoners who transfer to category D because of population pressures elsewhere. This figures compares favourably with other similar establishments.''

Mr Wood said: ''We had a nasty spate of absconds over the Easter period which was totally out of character for this establishment, yet for a month over Christmas there were no absconds. We investigate all absconds to see if there is any link and there was no major link. All prisoners that come here are robustly risk assessed at other establishments and that continues while they are here. The rising prison population has made more people come to open establishments and absconds have risen (nationally)but we are slightly better than in previous years.

''Nearly 14,500 people went out last year on temporarily releases to paid work in the community, go to college, see family and for resettlement leave and 99.94% came back which shows that we have the risk assessment programme pretty much spot on. Hollesley Bay compares incredibly favourably against other category D prisons.''

Exercise: The report highlighted the closure of physical education sessions at the prison and the loss of instructors to Warren Hill prison. Mr Wood said: ''There is an agreement that Warren Hill provides 31.2 hours a week of PE provision which just about meets my PE needs. Because I want to move forward with PE provision, I have put together bids for funding to allow me to have my own PE department which will assist me in increasing PE. I am waiting to see the results of the bids.''

Farm: The report was highly critical of the condition of the farm estate and the wastage of some crops, including excellent quality aubergines and marrows which were dumped because there was no market for them. It added that there appeared to be a ''distinct lack of direction and motivation about the future of the nursery.''

A decision has been taken nationally to reduce the Hollesley Bay farm and the Prison Service was criticised for the indecision and lack of investment which had reduced the farm to a ''soul-destroying state, with demoralised and bewildered staff, some poor quality produce and dilapidated buildings – little short of an embarrassment for those of us who live nearby,'' said Mrs Fraser.

Mr Wood said: ''We were a farm with a prison attached, we are now a prison with land based activities which play an integral part in providing work for prisoners. The nursery is going through a transitional phase and we want to be able to focus on the nursery and commercial horticulture so we will have greenhouses, grow produce, have lovely lawns and hanging baskets. We want to provide accredited training for the prisoners so that this can increase their opportunities for getting jobs. The vegetable processing is still open – we got additional work because of a closure of another establishment farm – but the future is under review.''

Stud: During 2003 an average of 25 Suffolk horses lived and worked at Hollesley Bay, providing jobs for 40 prisoners. The report said: ''The stud groom (Bruce Smith) has shown unbridled enthusiasm and dedication to a cause which at times threatened to run away with him, and he is a most valuable ambassador, much respected in the local community.''

There is a £4m-plus project for the Suffolk Punch Trust to set up new stud facilities and a tourist attraction.

The future: The report said Hollesley Bay held prisoners in security, safety and with purposefulness to prepare them for release. The governor is now awaiting the official publication of a more in-depth report from the Inspectorate of Prisons, following the first visit in December for seven years.

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