Prison recruits neighbours to help stem tide of contraband

PRISON bosses are recruiting the public to keep an eye on Saughton jail in a neighbourhood watch-style scheme.
Local residents are being urged to report suspicious activity around the facility and help stem the flood of drugs and mobile phones being smuggled inside.
 
The scheme, which is the first of its kind in Scotland and is being launched in partnership with the police, will see a special hotline number set up to allow people to contact the authorities.
 
Smugglers often throw stashes of drugs, phones and other contraband over the prison's boundary walls.
 
The Prison Watch service is also encouraging visitors to the jail to report any suspected smuggling while attending to see friends and relatives.
 
The launch follows the release of figures that showed 311 drugs seizures and 367 mobile phone confiscations were made at Saughton last year. Fourteen visitors to the prison were reported to the police for possession with intent to supply drugs at the jail.
 
Chief Superintendent Gill Imery, police commander for Edinburgh, said: "The problem of contraband being smuggled into prisons has long been an issue, and we have continually looked for ways to overcome it.
 
"Items such as drugs and mobile phones are often used as currency within prisons and can support the existence and workings of organised crime groups. They are also detrimental to efforts to break the offending cycle."
 
In December, a report by ISD Scotland showed that 20 per cent of 66 inmates tested for drugs as they prepared to leave prison gave positive samples for substances including heroin, cocaine and cannabis. 
 
Hiding drugs behind postage stamps and sewing them into boxer shorts have been among the methods used to try to smuggle drugs into the jail. 
 
Among the illegal items found during searches between January and June alone were spears made out of mop handles and hooks, counterfeit DVDs, including a porn collection, a knife made out of a razor blade and a brush, and an inhaler converted into a crack pipe.
 
Prison Watch was set to be launched today by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAkill during a planned visit to Saughton. 
 
He said: "By raising these issues we seek to highlight the various steps criminals will take in furthering their illegal activities.
 
"The public are rightly concerned when they read about the presence of drugs or other items in prisons. However, they may see suspicious activity around the wall of the prison or even amongst persons approaching to visit someone. 
 
"There can often be an unseen but significant impact on the family of prisoners, who can be subjected to intimidation by others to pay for drugs in prison or to deliver them."
 
• The hotline number is 0131-444 3111.