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Last Updated: Monday, 31 July 2006, 11:36 GMT 12:36 UK
Prisons run as 'colleges of crime'
Prison fence
Corruption is undermining good work by many staff, it is claimed
A leaked study suggests that at least 1,000 out of some 45,000 prison staff in England and Wales are corrupt.

Commentators have said the allegations of drug and mobile phone smuggling could impact on the work being done to help inmates. But the Prison Service believes the perceived problem has been overstated.

One former inmate Bob Croxton reckons officers made thousands of pounds from a steroid dealing operation he ran while in Liverpool prison over a nine-month period.

He told the BBC he managed to get officers to bring drugs into the jail for him, for which they were paid 500 a time.

"I ended up with about four officers involved," he said. "We all did OK."

Mr Croxton, who now runs a website for former inmates called the Criminal Information Agency, said the steroids were left in a designated place for him to collect.

"I'd go and pick them up and distribute them to the people within the prison," he said.

"I have worked out roughly, when I left the prison, that they must have taken about 35,000 off me."

Now a reformed character, Mr Croxton runs a website for former inmates called the Criminal Information Agency that is intended to help reduce offending.

Ethical conduct

The report compiled by the Metropolitan Police and Prison Service's anti-corruption unit, indicates the issue has not been tackled effectively.

Professor Tim Newburn, of the London School of Economics, was commissioned by the Prison Service six years ago to look at corruption.

It's almost impossible to imagine that constructive work can be done with prisoners
Prof Tim Newburn, LSE

He said the new findings appeared to illustrate an "institutionalised, fairly widespread set of misbehaviours, albeit with a very small minority of staff".

He added: "Nevertheless it is a significant problem for control, for order, for discipline and crucially, I think for ethical conduct within the prison service.

"And that means professional standards are not being upheld - it's almost impossible to imagine that constructive work can be done with prisoners."

The reports includes comments from several unnamed prison governors.

One said there were far too many mobile phones in jail for them to have all been smuggled in without the aid of staff.

Another prison head is quoted: "Here corruption is endemic... I've identified over 20 corrupt staff, but there may be more."

And one said: "I currently have 10 corrupt staff and I am managing the threat they pose to my prison - positive mandatory drug testing figures are over 20% so it must be staff bringing in drugs."

According to the director of the Prison Reform Trust, Juliet Lyon, a few corrupt officers could undermine good work by many staff.

"Nothing could be more terrifying, for prisoners or staff, than not knowing who you can trust in an overcrowded jail where violence and intimidation are rife.

"To avoid prisons running as colleges of crime it is vital to stabilize prison management, recruit, train and supervise responsible staff and ensure that reliable independent monitoring systems operate throughout."

One ex-prisoner tells how he bribed prison staff

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