Criminal gangs in UK sending recruits to train as prison officers
The Prison Officers’ Association warns that organized criminal groups are sending accomplices to train as prison guards for the "sole purpose" of getting narcotics and phones into prison.
The Prison Officers' Association (POA) has warned that organized criminal groups are sending accomplices to train as prison guards for the "sole purpose" of getting narcotics and phones into prison, The Guardian revealed in an exclusive report.
The POA blamed the hiring of "the wrong people" on inadequate pay and online interview methods.
Drugs continue to be a major issue in prisons despite increasing testing facilities. According to a POA spokesperson, “Organised crime groups realize that there’s a lot of money to be made by smuggling contraband into prisons."
The spokesperson explained that people can do it for themselves or as part of an organized crime group.
“You get paid to train and you do whatever you want after that. If you have a good run, you don’t get caught and get out after five or six months having made a few bucks. It sounds a bit surreal. But that’s actually happening," the spokesperson detailed.
Over the last 40 years, the age restriction for becoming a jail officer has been significantly decreased. It was reduced from 25 to 20 in 1987, and then to 18 in 1999, in order to promote recruiting in London, especially the south-east.
The POA stated that due to personnel shortages throughout the prison estate, training time has been reduced from 10 to seven weeks. The Ministry of Justice denies this, claiming that the 10-week course now includes "home learning" components.
Charlie Taylor, the chief inspector of prisons, expressed that younger officers, despite being great at times, may need some more "looking after".
Taylor remarked that there are sophisticated types of corruption in prisons, like organized crime, and other types of corruption that involve "naive" choices, like engaging in relationships with prisoners.
The chief recalled an earlier incident at HMP Berwyn in north Wales that involved 18 female guards being fired due to getting intimate with prisoners.
“In those cases, you have to ask, were they recruiting the right people? Or were they training these people properly in order to understand the risks of potential corruption?”
According to the Ministry of Justice, it has invested £100 million in airport-style security in prisons, purchasing 97 X-ray body scanners that, as of October 2022, have intercepted over 28,000 attempts to sneak contraband into cells.
However, the POA maintains that these scanners are frequently unstaffed due to a shortage of police, detailing that they may be left unattended during certain times of the day.
The POA wishes to stop online interviewing and resume in-person panels, which include governors. “We are hiring the wrong people and people who can’t even look you in the eye,” the spokesperson warned.
The Association also wants to raise the minimum age for jail employees to 21 and improve gate security to prevent contraband from being delivered by dishonest personnel.
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