London, July 9 (IANS) An army of 300 highly trained dogs has been recruited by Britain’s prison service to detect illicit drugs being smuggled into the country’s prisons, Government Prisons Minister Sam Gyimah revealed on Sunday.
About 225 kg of illicit drugs and over 20,000 sets of cellphone and SIM cards were recovered from British prisons in 2016. The minister said criminals using drones to smuggle phones and drugs into prisons were jailed during the year for a combined total of over 40 years.
Gyimah said a huge haul of drugs and cellphones have been recovered since new detection measures were introduced to crack down on prison contraband, Xinhua reported.
The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) said investment costing around $2.6 million has seen every British prison fitted with hand-held cellphone detectors and portable detection poles to step up the detection of illegal phones on prison landings.
Gyimah said 300 specialist prison dogs have been trained in drugs detection to help stem the flow of illicit substances into prisons, allowing prison guards to focus their efforts on reforming and turning around the lives of offenders.
The ministry said the measures are part of a much wider strategy to tackle the most pressing threats to security in prisons and backed by a strengthening of the frontline with 2,500 additional prison officers by 2018.
The latest statistics show that in 2016 prison staff recovered 225 kg of illicit drugs and in the same year recovered over 13,000 cellphones and 7,000 SIM cards, helping to thwart attempts by criminals to continue committing crime from their prison cells, said the MOJ.
Minister Gyimah said: “The current levels of violence, drugs and cellphones in our prisons is unacceptable. We have put in place a number of measures to help disrupt this illegal activity.
“These figures highlight the determination of prison staff to disrupt this behaviour, whilst at the same time sending a clear message that we will push to prosecute anyone who involves themselves in this kind of activity.”
The government has introduced strict measures to prevent drugs in prisons including introducing legislation which makes the possession of psychoactive substances a criminal offence.
Meanwhile, a specialist squad of prison and police officers has been formed to tackle the threat drones pose to prison security.
Figures show that to date there has been a total of 35 arrests and 11 convictions of criminals involved in using drones to smuggle items into prisons, resulting in those convicted serving a total of more than 40 years in jail.