PRISON: More likely politics than problems

HMP Northumberland.

HMP Northumberland.

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The eye-catching headline Powder Keg Waiting to Explode (Gazette, November 6), relating to the recent drugs haul in HMP Northumberland appears to be based on a single quote from county councillor Scott Dickinson.

Clearly, if there are failures by Sodexo, the private company that runs the prison, then these need to be addressed by the Ministry of Justice, which is responsible for the contract.

However, it is a fact that drugs exist in virtually every prison in Britain, in some cases brought in by prison officers.

The fact that they were found in this case shows that the systems in place worked. The only way of stopping visitors bringing drugs into prison is for everyone to be subject to a strip-search which would not, of course, be acceptable or realistic.

The Prison Officers Association, which is one of the last bastions of the old-style trade union, has, in the past, virtually run our prisons with governments of all shades refusing to take them on.

Call me a cynic, but I suspect the various leaks of problems at HMP Northumberland are a lot to do with the politics of privatisation, something which the Prison Officers Association opposes and sees as a threat to its power.

Labour county councillor Scott Dickinson, who appears to be a staunch ally of the POA, quite clearly has an axe to grind regarding privatisation, hence his emotive language and continued diatribe against Sodexo.

Prior to privatisation, was the prison drugs free and how many incidents occurred which were not made public? I suspect quite a few.

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