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Welcoming vital investment in security to target criminality inside prisons

In her latest blog Alison talks about drug use in prisons and the new Channel 4 series 'Call the Cops'

After years of battling for extra police funding I am delighted that the issue is high on the Government’s agenda. And last week I was equally pleased to see ministers recognise the need to invest in other areas of criminal justice, with the announcement of £100 million to target criminality inside prisons. This additional funding will be spent in more security measures, including body scanners, across the prison estate to stop the flow of drugs, weapons and phones.

This has got to be good news for the prisons in our area - HMP Exeter, Channings Wood and Dartmoor – where, when they are implemented, so many more inmates will have a much better chance of getting clean and staying safe while they serve jail sentences.

This investment comes on top of the much needed £2.5 billion investment, also announced last week, to create an additional 10,000 prison places and the promised introduction of a further 20,000 police officers over the next three years.   

I have become increasingly concerned about drug use in prisons, particularly at Exeter, where a report in late 2017 said staff were struggling to cope with the problem.

I have been calling on the Government to roll out scanners and other enhanced security measures since last summer so I am delighted that the new Prime Minister and the new Justice Secretary are taking this important step and demonstrating their clear commitment to law and order. I am keen to see these new measures introduced in Devon’s prisons as soon as possible.

At the moment drugs are rife in British prisons, criminality is allowed to flourish inside prison walls and gangs are exploiting fundamental weaknesses in security so they can carry out their illegal activity. The best thing that we can do for people who are serving a prison sentence is to keep them safe and away from drugs and give prison service staff the tools they need to allow them to do this.

If you are in any doubt as to how important this increased investment is to Devon and Cornwall Police I hope you watch the first episode tonight of a landmark series, ‘Call the Cops’ on Channel 4, which has been filmed over the last year across our area. 

It is an eye-opening portrayal of policing our two counties – and the Isles of Scilly – in 2019 when, very often, we see 1,000 incidents per day.

Previous ‘fly on the wall’ documentaries filmed in Devon and Cornwall have focused on the softer side of the work carried out by officers and, in my opinion, haven’t given a realistic illustration of the workload our people deal with every day.

The starting point for this series is the time at which police first become aware of an incident– the force control centre – and goes on to follow that report through to its conclusion.

Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer allowed ‘Call the Cops’ access to the force’s command and control teams as well as the frontline officers to show how the effects of ever-increasing calls for police help.

Viewers of this series will see armed robberies, sexual assaults, missing people searches and domestic incidents.They will also see staff and officers on the receiving end of verbal and physical abuse which I am sure you will find completely unacceptable.

Tonight’s episode will focus on Easter bank holiday, one of the busiest times of the year for the force, and followed the control rooms in Exeter and Plymouth as well as response units on the ground in Torbay and Plymouth.

Viewers will see first-hand the challenges faced by our staff and officers who are responding to a live firearms incident and hunting for a suspect who has fled the scene of a violent assault.

I urge you all to watch the series. It will give you a much better understanding of the pressure our police are under and why it is so important that they are properly funded.

And if you would like let me know what areas of policing you think it is important for us to invest in please take part in a survey we are currently running at our public events and online which you can complete here: www.surveymonkey.com/r/JFTMJ2V

Alison Hernandez