Jail mobile phone shock

Cell at Intermittent Custody Unit, Kirkham prison
Cell at Intermittent Custody Unit, Kirkham prison
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PRISON watchdogs have “major concerns” massive numbers of illegal mobile phones found at a Fylde prison could be used for drug activity and bullying.

Last year almost 400 devices were found inside Kirkham Prison, which the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) said was a “major concern”.

The study, published by board chairman Mary Heaton, also warned the prison faces tough financial times ahead.

But overall, the IMB agreed with a report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate which stated Kirkham was a “very impressive open prison”.

The discovery of the 382 phones and 48 sim cards was one of three areas of concern raised by the board, which assesses all aspects of prison life.

Mrs Heaton said: “The security problems (with the mobile phones) and links to drug and alcohol drops, as well as the potential bullying, are a major concern.

“We would not want to see them legalised but rather a system to prevent them working.”

And she warned stopping the mobile phones getting in would be difficult if there were further staff reductions due to funding cuts.

She added: “We accept this was a difficult year for many who work here.

“Financial restraints will unfortunately continue to dictate the way forward for Kirkham.”

Other areas of concern were the number of Indeterminate Sentence Prisoners - the group most likely to abscond - expected to be held at the prison this year, as well as the impact of funding cuts on education and training.

Re-integrating the prisoners into society is described as one of the prison’s major strengths, with 800 of the 4,000 prisoners at HMP Kirkham working in the region.

There are also 200 men a week taking part in training courses, and 10 prisoners have been working with a local company, which resulted in two gaining permenant jobs.

But Mrs Heaton added a major concern was “the impact of cuts reducing support for the re-integration of prisoners into society”.

A spokesman for the Prison Service said: “We thank the Independent Monitoring Board at HMP Kirkham for their report which will be fully considered by Ministers. We will respond to the board in due course.”