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Last Updated: Friday, 19 March, 2004, 12:24 GMT
Jail 'turns around' drug problem
Prison - generic
The prison has a zero tolerance approach to drugs
A jail that used to have the highest rate of drug abuse in England and Wales, has been praised by the prisons watchdog.

The drug problems at Featherstone in Staffordshire have been "turned around", according to a report by the chief inspector of prisons.

But Anne Owers said the improvements at the institution near Wolverhampton had not been made without a cost.

She found that the emphasis on security "pervaded the life" of the prison.

'Degrading' squatting

Her report said that, although Featherstone was largely calm and efficient with little bullying, the environment had become "over-controlled".

She discovered "excessive" handcuffing of new inmates arriving in reception and "degrading" routine squatting during strip searches in the segregation unit.

The "inappropriate" strip-searching of visitors was also identified as a problem.

The report found the policy was justified as part of a zero tolerance approach to drugs, but said it had proved ineffective as a way of actually finding illegal substances.

Featherstone should be praised for the turnaround that it has managed to achieve
Phil Wheatley
Prison Service director general

Ms Owers said the focus on security appeared to have damaged relations between staff and inmates, which were found to be more distant and formal than at most Category C prisons.

Featherstone was praised for its improved healthcare, its chaplaincy service and its visitors' centre.

The report said that the governor and staff deserved "considerable credit" for turning round the prison.

The director general of the Prison Service, Phil Wheatley, said: "The chief inspector has rightly praised the fact that Featherstone is largely calm, well-ordered and efficient and I know that the safety of prisoners at Featherstone is placed high on the agenda.

"Featherstone should be praised for the turnaround that it has managed to achieve in relation to the immense problems it has previously faced in terms of drug abuse and serious order and control difficulties."

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