Drugs and violence drop during prisons pilot

Assaults and drug use have dropped across 10 English prisons involved in a pilot scheme launched last year to tackle violence in troubled jails.

Positive drug tests fell by roughly half between August, when the £10 million scheme was launched, and March this year, according to the data.

The rate of assaults dropped by almost 16% from the three months up to August last year to the latest quarter up to June.

Measures including new scanners, sniffer dogs and repairs to basic infrastructure were introduced under the project at Hull, Humber, Leeds, Lindholme, Moorland, Wealstun, Nottingham, Ranby, Isis and Wormwood Scrubs prisons.

Ministry of Justice (MoJ) officials said “tangible results” were expected within 12 months, and then prisons minister Rory Stewart vowed to resign if the campaign failed.

Prisons minister Lucy Frazer said: “I am encouraged by the results of this bold project to turn around some of our most difficult prisons, which have seen drops in both violence and drug use.

“We are already using what has worked to improve the rest of the estate, spending £100 million on airport-style security to stop the scourge of mobile phones and drugs that fuel crime and disorder in jails.

“Alongside our recruitment of thousands of prison officers and building 10,000 additional prison places, we will continue our relentless drive to protect the public and make prisons places of safety and rehabilitation.”

The MoJ said the project will end but will form “part of our continuing efforts to boost safety, security and decency in all prisons”.

The figures show the rate of assaults per 1,000 prisoners across the 10 jails fell from 42.9 in the three months to August last year to 36.1 in the quarter to June – a decrease of around 16%, compared with a drop of roughly 8% across all prisons in England and Wales.

Two of the prisons involved in the pilot – Nottingham and Wormwood Scrubs – saw more assaults, while the rate at Hull remained roughly the same.

The figures suggest the rate of positive drug tests across the 10 prisons roughly halved from 26.5% in August last year to 13.4% in March, although the MoJ report pointed out the number of prisoners sampled was relatively small.

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