A dedicated specialist Task Force designed to tackle staff corruption in Britain’s jails has been announced by Justice Secretary David Gauke. The new Counter Corruption Unit will proactively pursue those suspected of corrupt activity in prison and probation services across England and Wales.
Working closely with law enforcement agencies, the appointed specialist staff will investigate and disrupt criminality and bring more prosecutions against those causing harm behind bars.
Crucially, the new Task Force will serve to protect the majority of prison and probation staff who are honest and hardworking. It will take action to counter the chaos and violence caused by the few who smuggle illicit items into jails or impede the ability to supervise offenders in the community effectively.
The Counter Corruption Unit comprises 29 specialist staff split into a national team and five regional teams. Within these teams are expert intelligence analysts who will examine threats to the organisation.
David Gauke said: “Our prison staff are overwhelmingly dedicated and honest and do their best to instil safety and order in our jails. We have seen from recent criminal prosecutions, however, that a small minority continue to engage in corrupt behaviour in our prisons, damaging both the integrity of the system and their profession. The Counter Corruption Unit underlines our determination to stamp out criminality in prison in all its forms. We’re closing the net on the individuals driving corruption, allowing the focus to be on safety and rehabilitation and, ultimately, keeping the public safer.”
Corruption can range from a member of staff having a relationship with a prisoner to bringing in drugs and contraband for individual prisoners or organised crime groups. The Counter Corruption Unit complements prison security teams that can already search staff, including with metal detectors and baggage scanners.
The new Counter Corruption Unit has four key aims to combat the threat:
*protect against corruption by building an open and resilient organisation
*prevent people from engaging in corruption, thereby strengthening professional integrity
*pursue and punish those involved in corruption
*prepare prisons to minimise the impact of corruption where it does occur
The police will be working with Her Majesty’s Prison Service to co-ordinate this work, reflecting the fact that corruption can extend beyond the prison walls (sometimes involving criminal kingpins orchestrating activity from their cells).
The new team accompanies the Government’s £70 million investment to improve safety, security and decency in prisons. This includes funding for new security scanners, improved searching techniques, phone-blocking technology and a financial crime unit tasked with identifying and seizing assets linked to crime behind bars.
This latest news has emerged against the backdrop of rising prison officer numbers, with more than 4,700 additional officers now recruited since October 2016 and staffing levels at their highest number since 2012.