IT intelligence integration needed to tackle drugs in prisons, says report

The prison service is piloting an IT-based intelligence system to tackle drug use in jails. A review...

The prison service is piloting an IT-based intelligence system to tackle drug use in jails.

A review on drugs in prisons by former Inspector of Constabulary David Blakey concluded that, "The lack of an integrated intelligence system is perhaps the major drawback in disrupting drugs getting into prisons." Technology use in prisons is "uncoordinated and somewhat ad-hoc," he said.

Prisoner records are held on paper, while the Police National Computer is only available at a few prisons. There is no system in place to allow information to be shared between prisons, and intelligence sources such as prison bank accounts are not being exploited.

One of the report's recommendations was that the national system for intelligence in prisons should continue to be established.

The National Intelligence Model, which aims to integrate the disparate information sources, has been budgeted at £6m, but could end up costing "substantially more", said Blakey.  The Ministry of Justice has accepted all Blakey's recommendations.

Successfully analysing intelligence could help staff know who to search, which visitors to ban, and where to patrol.

Blakey said, "Much good work on intelligence gathering is going on in prisons. But the effort is not yet linked up and valuable intelligence is stored in stand-alone systems and in individual memories."

In addition, scanning technology should be more widely used to detect mobile phones on prisoners, which are used to contact drug dealers, he said. Body Orifice Scanner System (Boss) chairs should be rolled out to every prison.

Boss chairs are "non-threatening looking plastic armchairs" which "can and do detect metal or plastic in body orifices".

Blakey also advocated mobile phone blocking systems for every prison.

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