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Prisons to get ‘airport-style’ security and addiction assessments for all inmates under drugs crackdown plan

All new prisons will have “airport-style” security and every inmate will be assessed for addiction under plans to keep drugs out of jails.

Drug dogs and hand-held scanner wands will be deployed at prison gates as well as X-ray body scanners and biometric identification for visitors under the government’s proposal to stop dangerous substances entering prisons, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said.

The government has outlined its plans in a Prisons Strategy White Paper, which will be revealed in full in the House of Commons later.

“New measures will clamp down on the flow of dangerous substances behind bars that wreak havoc on prison landings and scupper the work of frontline staff in reforming offenders,” the MoJ said.

Under the plan, ministers will also consider using scanners to search staff “who may be susceptible to corruption” to stop frontline prison officers from being blackmailed into bringing illegal items into prisons.

They also want every prisoner to be assessed for drug and alcohol addiction when they arrive and impose new “stringent” targets to hold prison governors to account for keeping drugs out of their jails and keeping prisoners off them for good.

Prisons will have to meet drug testing targets and for the first time be accountable for drug rehabilitation, the MoJ said.

The results, which would be published in national league tables, would cover a prison’s success in getting criminals off drugs and alcohol and into employment or education on release.

The white paper also says a range of treatments, including abstinence therapy, would help to reduce “over-reliance on opiate substitutes like methadone”.

X-ray body scanners have already been installed at every closed male prison to allow staff to identify whether prisoners are smuggling contraband inside their bodies.

Since summer 2020, the scanners have prevented more than 10,000 attempts to get drugs, phones and weapons into prisons where they get into the hands of gangs, the MoJ said.

The “airport-style” measures would be installed in all new prisons, including HMP Five Wells in Wellingborough, opening in early 2022, the new prison in Glen Parva in Leicestershire, the new prison next to HMP Full Sutton in Yorkshire, and three others yet to be confirmed.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “This government is delivering tougher sentences and 20,000 more prison places to keep the most dangerous criminals off our streets for longer, but prisons also need to play their part in cutting crime and preventing future victims.”

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab added that extra prison places are being built so serious offenders will be incarcerated for longer and the new plan will “improve the security of our jails”.

But Labour’s shadow justice secretary, Steve Reed, claimed Mr Johnson’s government could not be trusted to “clean up the mess” in the prison system.

He accused the Conservatives of having “mismanaged” prisons so they are “awash with drugs, violence and disorder”.

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