Gang-linked prisoners could be moved to high-security jails

Gang-linked prisoners could be moved to high-security jails

David Gauke may change rules on where inmates are held

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Prisoners with gang links could be transferred into higher-security jails under plans to choke off the influence of criminal kingpins behind bars.

Justice Secretary David Gauke is weighing up a major change to rules underpinning decisions on where inmates are held as part of a drive to stem the flow of drugs, mobile phones and other contraband into the prison estate.

Currently prisoners are assigned security categories according to their sentence length and escape risk.

Those at the highest levels are held in establishments or wings with more restrictive regimes. Inmates can be moved during their sentence if their categorisation is raised or downgraded.

Under the proposals being examined by the Government, a new factor, the risk of continuing criminality in prison, would be taken into account when determining security categories.

If adopted, the move would be a "critical tool" in helping cut off kingpins from directing illegal activity both inside and outside prison, officials said.

Authorities estimate there are approximately 6,500 offenders in prison in total associated with organised crime, roughly equivalent to one in every 13 inmates.

In his first major speech on prisons since his appointment in January, Gauke will warn new technologies have "empowered" smuggling gangs to be more "sophisticated and brazen" in their methods.

He will describe how criminals have used drones to fly contraband to specific cell windows and even coated children's paintings in psychoactive substances.

Gauke will say: "We are taking action to bolster our defences at the prison gate and going after the organised criminal gangs.

"I want them to know that as a result of the action we are taking, they have no place to hide.

"Through our covert and intelligence-led operations, we will track them down."

As well as the security categorisation review, a new unit has been set up to identify organised criminal gangs in prisons as part of a £14 million investment.