Ministry of Justice
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Thousands of prison smuggling attempts thwarted

Bolstered prison security has thwarted thousands of attempts to smuggle drugs, weapons and phones behind bars as the clampdown on prison rule breakers advances.

  • X-ray scanners intercepting thousands of smuggling attempts every year
  • Updated detection technology allows clothes to be drug tested for first-time
  • Airport-style security is the latest step in clampdown on contraband behind bars

New figures reveal more than 46,900 suspect items have been identified by the 75 high-tech X-ray body scanners installed in all closed adult male prisons since July 2020. It demonstrates the effectiveness of the Government’s £100m investment in prison security and new technology to cut violence, drug use and disruption on prison landings. 

From this month, next-generation trace detection equipment will also be used to test for traces of psychoactive substances such as ‘spice’ embedded in clothing belonging to visitors or prison officers. Previously only the clothes or materials of prisoners were able to be tested.  

This toughened security will continue the crack down on criminal attempts to exploit smuggling routes that fuels violence, addiction and crime behind bars.  

Prisons and Probation Minister Edward Argar yesterday said:  

Our clamp down to stop drugs, weapons and phones from getting into prisons is working.  

The new tech we’ve brought in is making prisons safer for staff and ensuring prisoners focus on their rehab so we continue to cut crime.

X-ray scanners across the prison estate have helped thwart thousands of attempts to smuggle illicit items behind bars, often via the bowels of prisoners. Items that have been uncovered include mobile phones, charging leads, tobacco and drug packages.  

The government’s investment of up to £100 million in bolstered prison security measures has seen 95 prisons now equipped with next-generation trace detection equipment and 75 equipped with X-ray body scanners. Other measures include: 

  • The deployment of more than 150 specially trained drug sniffer dogs to help crackdown on attempts to smuggle illicit contraband behind bars.
  • The recruitment of 140 additional counter corruption personnel to help root out the dangerous few prison staff who abuse our rules.

Anyone caught smuggling illicit contraband and fuelling violence behind bars will face up to 10 years in prison.


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