One in four prisoners at HMP Peterborough are on drugs, report finds

HMP Peterborough.
Credit: PA
The lack of housing support for prisoners released from HMP Peterborough was also highlighted. Credit: PA

Nearly one in four inmates at a troubled jail are active drug users, according to a "worrying" report which also highlighted a lack of housing support for released prisoners.

The drug figures represented "a considerable increase" since their last visit to HMP Peterborough, said inspectors.

They found that nearly a third (30%) of men released in the past year were made “homeless” as there was insufficient housing support available.

HMP Peterborough, one of the UK’s largest reception jails taking new inmates, has released about 1,200 men in the past year, and received about 700 men who were recalled to prison for violating the terms of their community supervision.

A housing adviser failed to visit the prison for more than a year and 333 prisoners were released homeless in the year to January 2024.

The report said “despite them having no address to go to, managers had been obliged to release some men 18 days early under the End of Custody Supervised Licence scheme, only for some to return to prison before even their original release date had passed”.

The HM Inspectorate of Prisons’ report said Interventions Alliance was the commissioned rehabilitative services (CRS) provider responsible for delivering housing support in the region.

“Despite receiving about 40 referrals every month, they were only profiled to provide 0.8 staff and, in reality, there had been no regular staff on site for over a year, other than occasional visits from a manager to triage the most critical cases.”

The privately run category B prison operated by Sodexo Justice Services was said to be facing staffing challenges, with about a third of officers “routinely unavailable for duty”.

“Our survey findings showed that many staff felt unsupported, and morale was low,” the report said.

The deployment of senior staff to support other Sodexo prisons during the previous 18 months was also said to have “impacted negatively” at Peterborough.

A survey of male prisoners found a third said drugs were “easy to get hold of” and random testing between April and December 2023 had found more than a quarter (27%) of those tested were identified as active drug users, a figure which inspectors said “represented a considerable increase since we last inspected”.

The report said “16% said they had developed a drug problem since being at the prison”, adding: “Prisoners were given the option of living on a drug-free wing, but this merely amounted to signing a compact (agreeing not to use illicit substances), with little clinical support on that wing.”

Charlie Taylor, HM chief inspector of prisons, said: “This was a worrying inspection.

“It is particularly disappointing that Peterborough, which has historically been one of the better resettlement prisons in the country, has suffered for its more experienced staff being taken to shore up other struggling jails run by Sodexo.

“But its deterioration also shows the strain that is on all of our prisons at the moment, with common themes such as drugs, staffing challenges, overcrowding and a revolving door for those caught in a cycle of reoffending.

“Until prisons focus on breaking that cycle by providing meaningful education, employment and other rehabilitation, our communities will continue to suffer, because where there is reoffending there are more victims.”

An HMP Peterborough spokesman said: “We welcome the chief inspector’s report and take on board fully his feedback and recommendations for improvement.

“Whilst we are pleased that the report recognises the hard work undertaken by our team to make the prison considerably safer, we fully acknowledge that some other areas, such as purposeful activity, require improvement.

“Since the inspection, we have been working on an action plan that builds on progress to date and which will help us address these issues.”

Interventions Alliance has been approached for comment.

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