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Heart has discovered that the number of mobile phones discovered in Devon's three prisons has gone up more than nine times in two years. 290 were seized in 2009 - compared to just 31 in 2006.
Margaret Blake, who is Vice-Chair of the Independent Monitoring Board for HMP Dartmoor said there are a number of reasons why inmates would want one, 'They can make much clearer arrangements about getting drugs into the prison, they can maintain much clearer links with other criminals, they might want to contact their victim.' You can listen to our interview with Margaret HERE.
The figures have been released under the Freedom of Information Act.
Pamela Lathbridge, who is responsible for mobile phone strategy for the Ministry of Justice has told Heart that the stats are lower than the reality, 'The figures understate the actual number of finds, because they do not include items retained by the police for evidential purposes and because there has historically been some under-reporting [...] While the number of phones found indicates the scale of the challenge in tackling illicit mobile phones, it is also a reflection of prisons' increasing success in finding them and better reporting.'
Mobile phones/SIM cards submitted
In a statement to Heart a Prison Service spokesperson said:
"The seizures we make demonstrate our commitment to finding and disrupting any phones which are smuggled in to prison, as well as the effectiveness of prison security and intelligence work. The government made it a criminal offence to bring a mobile phone into prison and we are committed to enforcing it.
"The government also proposed a new clause to the Crime and Security Bill which would make it a criminal offence to be in possession of a mobile phone device within a prison without authorisation. The objective of this clause is to act as an additional deterrent to those who consider trafficking a mobile phone and/or its component parts into prison and to punish those who do.
“All this is part of the National Offender Management Service's strategy to tackle illicit mobile phones, which includes minimising the number of mobile phones entering prisons, finding those that are smuggled in and disrupting those we cannot find through such means as mobile phone blockers, which are being trialled by the Prison Service.
"We are also extremely skilled in managing all challenging and dangerous criminals, and adapting to evolving risks and dangers. We run a dedicated, expert unit which leads work to tackle the risk of extremism in prison. All our High Security prisons operate enhanced monitoring and intelligence-gathering on those convicted or suspected of involvement in terrorism or extremism. We work with closely with the Home Office, police and partner agencies. Staff are supported with the information and training they need to deal with these individuals.”