Page last updated at 07:29 GMT, Friday, 18 September 2009 08:29 UK

Inmates 'take 1m worth of drugs'

Wandsworth Prison
Illegal mobile phone use at Wandsworth Prison was also rife

The drugs problem in Britain's largest prison is at its worst ever, according to a new report.

The Independent Monitoring Board said illegal drugs with a street value of about £1m were used at south-west London's Wandsworth Prison each year.

It blamed corrupt staff, volunteers and contractors for smuggling it in.

The Prison Service said it took the issue of illicit drugs seriously and had a range of measures in place to tackle the problem.

Official statistics hid the reality of the drugs problem, the board said, with prisoners switching from cannabis to harder drugs which left no trace after just 24 hours.

Signal blockers

Illegal mobile phone use at Wandsworth Prison was also rife, the report said.

Searches should be carried out on everyone entering the prison to stop drugs getting in, and technology used to jam mobile phone signals, the board said.

The report said: "The lack of a positive response from government has resulted in an increasing use of mobile phones and an even more rapidly increasing market for drugs in prisons."

A Prison Service spokesman said: "We take the problem of illicit drugs in prisons very seriously, and work to do everything possible to disrupt their supply and demand.

"We have a comprehensive range of security measures including the use of search dogs and close working with local police.

"The Prison Service is trialling signal blockers and looking to roll them out more widely. It is not a quick, simple or cheap option.

"It is technically challenging, given the nature of the different fabric and layouts of prisons and the need to block signals within prisons without adversely affecting signals outside the prison."

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