Ministers will introduce cell checks, sniffer dogs and scanners in a crackdown on drug use in prisons

HMP Nottingham will be among the first jails put into a pilot scheme where lags will see a dramatic rise in cell checks, perimeter inspections as well as sniffer dogs and scanners at the gate.

Prisoners will also forced to ‘clean up’ yards to remove piles of garbage. A damning dossier from the Prison Officers Association said it was “easy” for drugs and mobile phones to be smuggled into jails – and that some lags’ cells aren’t checked for months.

They claimed there still aren’t enough sniffer dogs for every jail. Prison officers confiscated a staggering 500lb of drugs in England and Wales in 2016 as well as 13,000 mobile phones.

Governors claim the startling increase in drugs behind bars is the reason for record levels of violence – with assaults on officers now averaging one every HOUR.

POA chief Steve Gillan said: “We’ve gone from security to appeasement, the prisoners are running the show. The public would be outraged if they could see what little was being done. It’s open season for drugs – and it’s fuelling the record levels of violence.”

The new crackdown is being masterminded by Prisons Minister Rory Stewart after meetings with the POA earlier this year.

Under a working title of ‘Decency, Safety, Security’ he also wants to ensure all necessary repairs – such as broken cell windows – and up the quality of education. It will centre on Category B and Category C prisons such as Pentonville given the tougher measures already in place at High Security prisons.

Earlier this year the Minister said that if he wasn’t able to tackle drugs in the next 12 months “I’m not doing my job”. It followed a scathing report by inspectors in January claimed conditions in rat-infested HMP Liverpool were the “worst they could ever recall”.

HMP Nottingham was put into special measures after a similar report warned the Government the jail was in a “dangerous state”. One officer almost lost his life two months ago in HMP Bedford after a prisoner knocked him out then jumped on his head. He needed emergency brain surgery.

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: “These plans are at an early stage but the focus will be on improving standards, safety and security.”

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