Northamptonshire prison gets tough on mobile phone smuggling inmates

HMP Rye Hill.
HMP Rye Hill.

Officers are clamping down on mobiles being smuggled into a Northamptonshire prison, a study has revealed - despite the fact confiscations are rife elsewhere.

Phones have become a valuable illegal resource in lockups around the UK among inmates seeking to continue a life of crime unhindered behind locked doors.

A probe by the BBC’s Shared Data Unit has found confiscations of sim cards and phones within prisons have jumped by 56 per cent in just three years.

Officers took the handheld devices off 9,640 inmates in 2014, compared to 15,082 in 2017.

But HMP Rye Hill, based on the Northamptonshire border, appears to be bucking the trend.

In 2010, prison officers discovered 42 phones on inmates, out of a prison population of 614.

That rose to 79 the following year, before peaking at 113 in 2013.

During that year phones were found, effectively, on every 18 out of 100 prisoners.

But since the spike of four years ago, Rye Hill bosses have clamped down on the issue.

In 2017, just seven phones were taken from inmates.

“These statistics show that we are successfully stopping contraband from entering the prison estate,” said a Ministry of Justice spokesperson.

“Better intelligence and improved security measures are allowing us to catch more illicit items than ever before.

“However, we acknowledge that more must be done and as Minister [Rory] Stewart has previously stated, there are only five ways in which contraband can be smuggled into prisons and we are taking steps to tackle all five.

“We’ve addressed flying contraband in by tackling drones, the throwing over of items by the use of nets and searches, the dragging in of items by identifying wires and the posting of drugs by photocopying letters.”

Prisons with the largest percentage rises in the rate of mobile phones or SIM card finds from 2011 to 2017 were Hindley, Doncaster, Portland, Glen Parva and Rochester.