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  1. ITV Report

HMP Durham Prison bosses 'immensely frustrated' by lack of technology to tackle drugs

A prison hit by rising violence and a spate of suspected drug-related deaths was promised scanning equipment, only for it to be diverted to another jail, according to a watchdog report.

HMP Durham's leadership was said to have been left "immensely frustrated" at having no modern technology to help their efforts to stop drugs getting in.

It is believed scanners are expected to be installed at the establishment in the coming months.

Credit: PA (stock shot)

There had been five deaths at the establishment in eight months where it was suspected that illicit drugs might have played a role - according to HM Inspectorate of Prisons.

It also found that levels of violence had doubled since the prison was last assessed.

Credit: PA (stock shot)

"The prison was well aware of the dangers posed by drugs and had developed a strategy to address the problem.

"However, the leadership of the prison was immensely frustrated by the fact that they had no modern technology available to them to help them in their efforts to stem the flow of drugs into the prison.

"We were told that they had been promised some modern scanning equipment but that it had been diverted to another prison.

"The scale of the problem at HMP Durham and the obvious linkage to all kinds of violence were such that technological support was urgently needed."

– Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke

The report said there had been seven self-inflicted deaths at the jail in the previous two years, while the number of self-harm incidents was "very high".

Inspectors, who visited the prison over two weeks in September and October, also found it was heavily overcrowded.

It held nearly 900 prisoners at the time of the inspection.

There were, however, "many positive things" happening, with the inspectorate citing the introduction of in-cell phones and a "new and more predictable" regime.

HMP Durham faces "significant challenges" but said it is making progress.

Violence, self-harm and disruptive behaviour have reduced and the prison is working to tackle illicit drug use, he said, adding: "We are under no illusions that there is much still to do."

– Michael Spurr, chief executive of HM Prison and Probation Service

"We are determined to install full airport-style security with the right dogs, technology, scanners and search teams to detect drugs.

"We will install the technology in Durham and we will be rolling it out across our local prisons. Tackling drugs is vital for reducing violence."

– Prisons minister Rory Stewart