Apart from retaining the Communications Traffic Data on millions of innocent people (with plans for even more extensive snooping under the Communications Data Bill), and admitting to the electronic bugging of Member of Parliament Sadiq Khan (now a junior Government Minister) when visiting his constituent Babar Ahmad (who has not been charged with any offence in the UK, but is awaiting extradition to the USA, without any prima facie evidence having been brought against him in a UK court) in prison, what has this labour government done about the ongoing scandal of thousands of mobile phones in Prisons ?
The 2007 - 2008 Independent Monitoring Board annual report for Wandsworth prison (.pdf), which holds the largest number of prisoners in the UK, makes dismal reading in this regard.
Access to mobile phones:
- For the past three years in this report we have asked the Home Office and then the Ministry of Justice to implement an effective jamming system to curtail the use of mobile phones. We have been promised that trials are taking place but nothing is happening in the large Local prisons to jam the use of mobile phones. Within Wandsworth it is estimated that the drugs trade would be halved if phones were jammed. As with drugs mobile phones are very freely available within HMP Wandsworth. Last year 307 were found and the numbers being found in the first six months of this year show an alarming increase. Phones are not just used to drive the drugs trade in Wandsworth. We have seen a phone seized by Security which had the most graphic and violent images taken in another prison, including forced sex and stabbings. With the possession of mobile phones within prisons now being a criminal offence we look forward to the Police taking a more active role in arresting and charging those found with mobile phones in prison.
The Labour government have, as is so typical of them, legislated unnecessarily in the Offender Management Act 2007 section 22 Conveyance of prohibited articles into or out of prison , which amends section 40 of the Prison Act 1952, to make smuggling mobile phones into a prison a criminal offence, pretending that it was not already illegal under drug dealing or prison escape conspiracy laws.
However they seem to have done nothing to actually implement any sort of mobile phone blocking or precise location tracking of handsets, (the controversial Path Intelligence Footpath technology used in some shopping centres, could be used for this).
Astonishingly, at HMP Wandsworth, it appears that the available metal detector anti-mobile phone smuggling technology is not being used !
We had very high hopes last year that the BOSS (Bodily Orifice Security Scanner) chair would be used to try and detect more phones being brought in by prisoners. Unfortunately it has hardly been used at all.
Is this because there is only the one BOSS chair, which cannot cope with the large number of movements in and out of the security perimeter every day ?
Or is there resistance to its use from corrupt prison staff ?
Drugs appear to be more widely available than at any time previously. The Mandatory Drugs Tests targets have been met with difficulty until recently primarily because of the relatively low level of drugs usage in Onslow. The current target for positive tests is 14%. The current annual market for drugs in Wandsworth was recently estimated to be worth £1million .Drugs of any sort are freely available.
Drugs enter the prison within prisoners, through visits, over the wall or via staff. Considerable progress appears to have been made to curb supplies through the first three categories of supply. There are concerns that a small number of staff is responsible for bringing the lion's share of drugs into the prison. Clearly this is an area for intensive investigation and the creation of the Ministry of Justice's new Anti-Corruption Unit is to be welcomed.
Who is holding Labour Ministers and Senior Civil Servants to account for their utter management failures e.g.
Given the years of failure by both the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice to sort out both the drugs and mobile phones scandals in prisons throughout the UK, one has to ask if the corruption extends beyond individual corrupt prison staff, and includes senior civil servants, private sector companies and Labour politicians as well ?
They are either incompetent, or corrupt, or both - they cannot be innocent of any blame.
Just a reminder, to those who think that simple mobile phone jamming is the answer, and who forget that most of our prisons in the UK are in, or near to, busy urban areas or roads:
- Crude jamming or Faraday cage shielding of mobile phone signals could easily affect mobile phone services well outside the perimeter of a prison, if done stupidly or on the cheap.
- Unless appropriate micro or pico cell transmitters or repeaters are also installed, then the shielding or jamming of a prison, will create a mobile phone reception "dead zone" shadow, which will prevent normal mobile phone use where the prison happens to be directly between a Cell Phone Mast and a mobile phone handset.
- This includes a "dead zone" for ringing the Emergency Services (over half of such 999 / 112 emergency calls are from mobile phones) , so inappropriate jamming or shielding done on the cheap could contribute to injuries or loss of life.
Given the claim that
The current annual market for drugs in Wandsworth was recently estimated to be worth £1million
there is no excuse for not investing in some mobile tracking, jamming, shielding and micro / pico cell repeater infrastructure in every Prison in the UK, instead of wasting billions of pounds on ID Cards, and centralised national snooping databases of innocent people.