Liz Truss promises prison crackdown on ‘toxic cocktail of drugs, drones and mobile phones’

For safety reasons prisoners are not allowed to keep their own razors in their cells so they are kept in a secure location where they can be checked in and out by prison guards. The Young Offenders Institution, Ayelsbury, United Kingdom.

Aylesbury YOI. Photo by Andrew Aitchison (

Liz Truss is to announce an extra 2,500 prison officers to deal with the crisis in prisons. The justice minister is expected to promise £104m for the recruitment drive as part of a clampdown on ‘the toxic cocktail of drugs, drones and mobile phones’ that were flooding prisons.

The number of officers has fallen by 5,200 since 2010. According to the Howard League for Penal Reform, prison officer numbers were cut by 30{3234d8c1bc8391a7e63ebaf7e32c90a4a5b2a92b92485c9509211683c01cefb1} between 2010 and 2013. As of June this year there were 14,689 frontline staff, down from 15,110 a year earlier.  Meanwhile the prison population has risen from 83,796 in June 2013 to 85,130 in June this year. Speaking to Radio Four’s World at One yesterday the head of the Prison Officers’ Association, Mike Rolf warned: ‘It’s a bloodbath in prisons at this minute in time. Staff are absolutely on their knees, lost all morale, all motivation.’ You can ex prisoner Tartan Con on Liz truss’s response to the prisons crisis here.

‘Action needs to be taken to increase the staffing levels in order to stem the flow of contraband, the self harms, the suicides and even murders. The inability of Liz Truss and her team to face the harsh reality that unless she rises to the challenge posed by the crisis in our prisons then her tenure as justice minister will go down as a total failure.’
Tartan Con, The Justice Gap

The government is expected to make drugs testing mandatory on arrival and departure from prison and to introduce 300 sniffer dogs to test for psychoactive substances. Liz Truss is also reported to be looking at technological solutions to combat drones dropping drugs into prisons. According to the Mail, one of the proposals is to test whether co-ordinates of prisons could be built into drone technology so that the devices can be blocked from flying over prisons. ‘These extra officers and new safety measures will help us crack down on the toxic cocktail of drugs, drones and mobile phones that are flooding our prisons, imperilling the safety of staff and offenders and thwarting reform,’ Liz Truss is expected to say.

The justice minister is expected to indicate that she plans to deliver on her predecessor, Michael Gove’s proposal to close down what he called ‘ageing and ineffective Victorian prisons’. Truss will say that prisons need to be ‘more than places of containment – they must be places of discipline, hard work and self-improvement’. Proposals are expected to include giving governors more powers over education, work and health budgets will also be outlined. If a jail is found to be failing by the Chief Inspector of Prisons, the Justice Secretary will have a new legal duty to intervene.

‘It is absolutely right that prisons punish people who commit serious crimes by depriving them of their most fundamental right: liberty. However our re-offending rates have remained too high for too long. So prisons need to be more than places of containment – they must be places of discipline, hard work and self-improvement. They must be places where offenders get off drugs and get the education and skills they need to find work and turn their back on crime for good.’
Liz Truss

Author: Jon Robins

Jon is editor of the Justice Gap. He is a freelance journalist. Jon’s books include The First Miscarriage of Justice (Waterside Press, 2014), The Justice Gap (LAG, 2009) and People Power (Daily Telegraph/LawPack, 2008). Jon is a journalism lecturer at Winchester University and a visiting senior fellow in access to justice at the University of Lincoln. He is twice winner of the Bar Council’s journalism award (2015 and 2005) and is shortlisted for this year’s Criminal Justice Alliance’s journalism award

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