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Exeter prison is still not doing enough to tackle drugs and violence says new report

HMP Exeter has been visited by inspectors for the second time in a year. Photo: ITV News

Exeter prison is still not doing enough to address high levels of drug use and violence, according to a new report.

Last year the prison was told to take immediate steps to improve amid concerns about the safety of inmates.

But today inspectors say there has been an 'inexplicable failure' to implement a new strategy.

A prison spokesman said they accept more needs to be done and steps are being taken to stop drugs getting in.

The prison service says it is taking steps to address drug use. Credit: ITV News

In the first of its new ‘Independent Reviews of Progress’ (IRPs), Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons examined 13 recommendations from last year's inspection.

The new report presents a mixed picture, with a "lack of progress" in more than half of the recommendations.

In the May 2018 inspection, inspectors found there had been six self-inflicted deaths between 2016 and 2018 and self-harm had risen by 40 per cent.

A number of actions had been taken to reduce violence and the strategy to reduce violence further in the future was promising. However, despite a rise in the already high use of illicit drugs in the establishment, there had been an inexplicable failure to develop a comprehensive drug strategy which, if properly implemented, would certainly contribute to a reduction in violence. A draft strategy was being put together and it is essential that this is now treated as a priority. Nevertheless, there had been a proactive response to some recommendations in critical areas and there are now credible plans to make further improvements in the future. It is unfortunate that the prison had not devised and implemented some of these plans earlier as they would no doubt have led to a more positive assessment at this review of progress.

– Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons
HMP Exeter was built around 1850. Credit: ITV News

Improving safety and security at HMP Exeter was our top priority following last year’s Urgent Notification and we’re pleased that inspectors recognise good progress has been made in this area. We accept more needs to be done to tackle drugs and are implementing new national and local drug strategies. We have increased the use of dog teams and perimeter patrols and all incoming mail is currently being photocopied to help stop drugs getting into prison.”

– Prison service spokesman

The Government is understood to be in the process of recruiting a specialist drugs lead for the South West, who will support HMP Exeter’s efforts to reduce drug use.