Information acquired through a Freedom of Information (FoI) request confirmed the south Staffordshire jail to be one of many UK prisons where aircraft have been used to deliver prohibited items to convicts.
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Previous statistics indicated that as of 2013, none of the unmanned craft were discovered in or around prisons in England and Wales.
The incident increases in 2014 to two before skyrocketing to 33 in 2015, a percentage increment of 1,550 percent.
Among the findings, the most intriguing case would be what happened at HMP Oakwood in Featherstone in December last year, where a drone, drugs, mobile phone, a charger, and USB cards were discovered.
The national chairman-elect of the Prison Officers Association (POA), Mike Rolfe, said, “The use of drones to smuggle traditional drugs, NPS (legal highs), and mobiles phones into prisons is of serious concern to the POA.”
“The POA has long pushed for increased staffing resource to tackle the security issue that drones present,” he continues. “The additional resource should be used to increase operational staffing within establishments, allowing for the recovery of parcels delivered to prisoners by drones through cell checks and prisoner searches. This includes pressing NOMS (National Offender Management Service) for measures to tackle drones such as ground patrols and secure windows on cells.”
According to available information, prisons most affected by drone incidents between 2014 and 2015 were HMP Onley in Northamptonshire, topping the list with four; followed by Lindholme, Ranby, and Swansea on three; and Bedford, Wandsworth, and Manchester clocking two each.
Prisons that hold one recorded incident include Leicester, The Mount, Whatton, Leeds, Eastwood Park, Liverpool, Norwich, Glen Parva, Huntercombe, Wormwood Scrubs, Full Sutton, Guys Marsh, Long Lartin, Bullingdon, Wealstun, and Oakwood.
The Ministry of Justice also expressed his views toward the accident, saying, “Incidents involving drones are rare, but we remain constantly vigilant to all new threats to prison security. We have introduced new legislation to further strengthen our powers, making it illegal to land a drone in prison or to use a drone to drop in psychoactive substances.”
He then concluded his statement by stating, “Anyone found using drones in an attempt to get contraband into prisons can be punished with a sentence of up to two years.”
In another report published in December by the HM Inspectorate of Prisons, it was observed that illegal drugs, NPS, and illicit medications may get into prisons in a number of ways, which indicates that it is not always possible to quantify exactly how many drugs are making it into prisons.
It has been established that supply routes differ from prison to prison At times, drugs are thrown over fences in tennis balls, sent in large packages and fired by catapults or are dropped by drones.
The report states that “easy access to illicit mobile telephones makes it possible to plan the drops carefully.”
The figures revealed by the FoI show that so far, concerning recorded information on the incidents at English prisons, drugs were discovered on at least six occasions, mobile phones more than nine times, and a drone itself recovered in 19 instances. The increasing occurrence of incidents in recent time calls for further attention in the area of security around prisons.