'Drugs easy to get in Brixton jail'

Romsey Advertiser: People being held in HMP Brixton find it easier to get drugs than get clean underwear, inspectors say People being held in HMP Brixton find it easier to get drugs than get clean underwear, inspectors say

It is easy for inmates to get drugs in Brixton prison but basic needs such as provision of clean underwear are not being met, inspectors have said.

Some wings in the south London prison are limited to two pairs of underwear per man each week, chief inspector of prisons Nick Hardwick said, recommending that inmates who receive prison-issue clothing should have sufficient sets of underwear each week.

Illegal drug use was "high" in the prison and inspectors "routinely smelt cannabis" when they visited the jail unannounced in July this year, Mr Hardwick said.

Brixton was re-roled in July 2012 as a category C and D resettlement prison for the local area and receives a large p opulation of sex offenders.

The prison, which opened in 1819 as the Surrey House of Correction, w as operating at about 60% over its certified normal capacity, the chief inspector said.

"Many prisoners shared small, cramped cells and some had inadequately screened toilets and because, at the time of the inspection, there was far too little activity for the size of the population, many were locked in their cells for more than 20 hours a day," he said in his report.

Some 30% of prisoners told inspectors it was "easy" or "very easy" to get hold of drugs inside Brixton, twice the level of those who said it was easy to get hold of alcohol.

But Mr Hardwick said Brixton prison was at "a turning point" as new and refurbished activity buildings were being worked on.

"This inspection came at a very bad time for the prison - when all the disadvantages of major building works were apparent but none of the advantages of the new provision had yet been realised," he said.

"However, the fact was that the prison was not yet ready for the category C and D prisoners it now held and too many lacked the opportunities for purposeful activity and rehabilitation they needed.

"Too much was on hold waiting for the new facilities to be ready and some elements of prisoners' treatment and conditions were unacceptable - and had remained so for too long."

Michael Spurr, chief executive of the National Offender Management Service, the executive agency of the Ministry of Justice that provides offender services in the community and in custody, said: " Brixton prison was undergoing a significant change when the chief inspector visited, but since then it has continued to adapt to its new role.

"In January the prison will see further changes with a new range of employment and education initiatives helping to increase productive time out of cell."

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