No drugs culture at Erlestoke Prison, says governor
Inmates at Erlestoke Prison who think that drugs are easily available within the walls are out of touch, according to governor Andy Rogers.
Mr Rogers praised his hard-working staff after a report from Chief Inspector of Prisons, Nick Hardwick, described Wiltshire’s only prison as a safe, respectful and purposeful place that is working hard towards meeting prisoner need.
But he hit back at another statement in the report whuich read: “There was a vigorous approach to supply reduction and mandatory drug testing suggested that illicit drug usage was being tackled, despite nearly half of prisoners still thinking it was easy to get drugs in prison.”
Mr Rogers said: “Some of our prisoners have been here a long time. Drugs have been a problem in the past but things have changed and we have been doing a lot of work around perceptions.
“We have carried out just under 1,200 random drug tests on prisoners in the last 12 months and there have been 35 positives, that’s less than three per cent.”
The report also notes there was little violence in the prison and most prisoners reported feeling safe. The atmosphere in the prison is described as mature and calm.
But there was criticism of the segregation arrangements, where troublesome prisoners are kept, which were described as poor.
This appeared to mean that the area was rather more austere than the inspectors felt it should be.
Mr Rogers said: “This is always a difficult balance to make. We don’t want to make it palatial because it is a punishment after all, but we have made some changes.”
Overall, Mr Rogers said he was pleased with the report.
He said: “This was an unannounced inspection, which took place last September, and at one point there were 25 inspectors looking into every aspect of prison life.
“No other prison has had such positive comments and I am very proud of what we’re achieving here.”
Last week Erlestoke Prison received the Elton Trophy, presented by Lord Elton in recognition of the prison’s partnerships with commercial companies in delivering vocational opportunities to prisoners, equipping them for life on the outside.