Jonathan Aitken

We need body scanners to tackle the prison drug problem

We need body scanners to tackle the prison drug problem
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As every prisoner and ex-prisoner knows the most frequently used route for drug smuggling into all categories of jails is 'bottling it'.

This is the crude but effective smuggling technique of inserting a package of drugs into an inmate’s anus. Unless prison staff receive a tip off that a particular prisoner is acting as 'a mule' for this route they will likely avoid detection, as routine anal searching at prison receptions is rare.

It is not generally realised how many prisoners have to go in and out of prison during their sentences for court appearances, requisition order hearings, hospital check-ups, legal town visits, or transfers to other establishments. The pushers have a sophisticated system for knowing about such outgoings, engaging 'mules' and delivering packages of drugs to them.

During my seven months in prison in 1999 I was twice approached (unsuccessfully!) with request to be a mule.

The Centre for Social Justice came out with a new report this morning, called Drugs in Prison. Their idea of equipping every prison with a body scanner could be a game-changer in the war against drugs in our jails. Body scanners would detect and frighten off the many 'bottling it' drug smugglers.

They could be installed in every one of the 118 prisons in England and Wales at a cost of approximately £10-15 million.

This would be a good investment by the Prison Service, assisted perhaps by a special grant from the Treasury, since the size of the prison drug smuggling traffic is estimated to be worth around £100 million a year.

Heroin and cocaine users, according to a 2013 Home Office study, are estimated to be responsible for 45 per cent of all acquisitive crime at a cost of £4.7 billion a year.

I hope that whatever government is elected in May, it will give urgent consideration to the CSJ’s recommendation to install body scanners into our prisons to stem the flow of drug smuggling.