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House of Commons Hansard
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Prisons: Criminal Activity and Drug Abuse
05 February 2019
Volume 654
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3. What steps the Government have taken to tackle criminal activity and drug abuse in the prisons in the 10 prisons project. [908989]

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Turning around the problem of drugs in prisons involves focusing on relationships, staff and perimeter security, but for the first time, every one of those 10 prisons will have proper dog teams, X-ray scanners and full airport-style security. I believe that that will drive down the supply of drugs in those prisons, and I expect to be judged on the results.

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The Minister won the admiration of the nation when he put his neck on the line in pursuit of his ambitious targets to reduce drugs and violence in our prisons. What other practical steps is he taking to meet those targets and to ensure that our prisons not only keep prisoners in, but keep drugs out?

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As well as ensuring that people are searched at the gates, we are investing more in netting and grilles. We are also investing a great deal more in staff training and support. Last week, I was lucky to be able to visit Newbold Revel, our prison officer training college, to see the passing out parade of the new set of individuals who are bringing standards to those 10 prisons.

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Violence in prisons has reached record levels, with assaults on prison officers up by 30%. When will the Government realise that their cuts are causing this crisis in our Prison Service?

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The assaults on prison officers are genuinely shocking. That is why we have doubled the sentence for such assaults, and why we are investing in perimeter security. It is also why I have said that if I do not bring down the incidence of that violence, including assaults on prison officers, I will resign.

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When I last visited HMP Bullingdon, it was explained to me that much of prisoners’ mail is saturated with drugs. How is the plan to photocopy mail where appropriate going?

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Every one of the 10 prisons where we are running the pilots will either photocopy the mail or put it through it through a Rapiscanner, which will identify Spice and other psychoactive substances to ensure that prisoners cannot use mail to bring drugs into prison.

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Order. In calling the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman), I congratulate him on his tie, inserting only the modest caveat that it is perhaps a tad understated.

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This is my celebration tie for Autism Day, Mr Speaker—a little bit of flamboyance for autism.

Nobody wants our prisons to have a culture of drugs and violence, but can the Minister imagine what it is like to be in prison and not to be guilty? I co-chair the all-party group on miscarriages of justice—we are meeting tonight. Some people do 18 years in prison are then found not guilty, but have no compensation and no reintroduction into society. When are we going to do something about that?

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I think that this is a slightly different subject, but I would be very happy to sit down with the hon. Gentleman to look at the rare but tragic cases when somebody is wrongfully convicted.