In the Media

Corruption and drug dealing are rife among staff at seven prisons

PUBLISHED September 9, 2006

A survey leaked to The Times reveals that at least 1,200 officers are in the pay of inmates 

THERE are ?sizeable corruption problems? in at least seven English jails named in a damning Prison Service report that says wrongdoing by staff is endemic and ?may well be growing?.

Manchester, Liverpool, Nottingham and Birmingham prisons and two jails in Kent and one in Cumbria are identified in the confidential study, which says that prisons for males in large cities are most at risk of corruption.

The review, by the Metropolitan Police and the prison service?s Professional Standards Unit (PSU), says that an internal database holds information about 3,507 prison staff suspected of misconduct.

A detailed analysis produced the conclusion that 1,272 was ?the lowest likely number of corrupt staff currently operating within the service?.

One governor interviewed by the review team believed that each wing or section within every large, closed prison had ?one trafficking member of staff to meet demand?.

A deputy governor described his prison as ?one of the most corrupt in the country?. He said he knew the names of at least 25 corrupt staff at his jail but said that ?there are many, many more?.

The study says that ?a corruption cycle? had been identified within one prison, ?whereby an officer would form a close relationship with a prisoner that involved supplying the prisoner with drugs and contraband?.

?The prisoner in turn would ?supply? to the rest of the wing. Both were able significantly to financially benefit as drugs inside this prison (a Category B local) sold for five times their street value and a mobile phone for ?250 to ?300.?

Over time, it is suggested that other prisoners tend to become jealous of the power exercised by the supplier. They pass information to honest officers, which leads to the removal of the corrupt member of staff. Another officer is then corrupted to fill the void.

The Times has obtained a copy of the study, which led Home Office officials ? when it was partially leaked in July ? to dispute the alleged extent of corruption within prisons.

A government spokesman suggested then that much of the evidence was anecdotal and that the figure of 1,272 ?should not be interpreted as confirmed cases?. The report, however, states that ?it is logical to estimate that, if the service has intelligence suggesting well over a thousand, the actual number acting in this way may be considerably higher?.

Evidence in the study, which was given the codename Operation Patella, includes interviews with three senior managers of the PSU, which was established in 2002 to collect and analyse intelligence on misconduct by prison staff.

One manager stated: ?The big local prisons are the worst, Swaleside (Kent), Liverpool, Birmingham, Maidstone (Kent), Nottingham, Haverigg (Cumbria), Manchester ? all these have real and sizeable corruption problems. I suspect all London prisons will be the same.?

The report concluded that corruption tended to be highest in large male prisons situated in depressed inner cities, where local recruitment was ?a significant factor influencing the prevalence of staff corruption?. It is also claimed that suspected cases of corruption are severely under-reported to the PSU. It highlights two reasons ? ?the service?s perceived lack of protection for whistleblowers and the prevalence of a grassroots culture of misguided loyalty that places allegiance to colleagues before integrity?. 

Those in authority at individual prisons are also failing to send intelligence to the PSU. The report states: ?Many matters never reach the PSU, remaining in ?bottom drawers?, ?governors? safes? or ?too difficult trays?.?

The study, which was led by Peter Siddons, the head of the PSU, and Detective Inspector Joanathan Cox, of the Metropolitan Police, found that the trafficking of drugs and mobile phones were the most common forms of corruption in prisons.

Actions that were to be regarded as corrupt, for the purposes of the joint study, must ?amount to substantive criminal offences?, including perverting the course of justice, bribery, blackmail, malfeasance and drug trafficking.

  • ?For every corrupt officer that we are aware of I suspect there are four others. I?d like to say that only 1 per cent of my staff are corrupt, that is to say 10, but to do so would mean that 99 per cent are honest and I know that?s simply not true? (Governor of a Category B local prison )
  • ?(Here corruption is) endemic . . . one of the most corrupt in the country. I have identified 25 corrupt staff but there are many, many more? (Deputy governor of a Category B local prison)
  • ?I currently have 10 corrupt staff and I am managing the risk they pose to our organisation. I would be surprised if the actual number (of corrupt staff) wasn?t twice that? (Governor of a high-security prison)

A prison officer who smuggled drugs and a mobile phone to a convicted murderer with whom she had struck up a relationship was jailed yesterday for 16 months.
A judge at Preston Crown Court told Kate Roberts, 28, from Rochdale, who worked at Garth jail in Leyland, Lancashire, that she had ?gone over to the other side?.