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.
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.
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.