FOR anyone who caught up with last summer’s Channel Four documentary about life at Durham Prison, today’s report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons rings very true.

The three-part series revealed the shocking extent of the drug problem in the prison, with officers’ daily routine including dealing with Spice, smuggled phones and inmates being “spiked” for a laugh. A nurse recounted days when up to nine prisoners were made comatose by the drug. At the end of first episode, residential governor Chris Hounslow told the cameras; “We bring drug addicts into prison on really short sentences which makes it difficult, if not impossible to intervene with any kind of treatment. It’s a constant battle and – I hate to say it – a battle that we’re losing.”

Today’s report tells how prison leadership was well aware of the dangers posed by drugs and had developed a strategy to address the problem, only to see promised scanning equipment diverted to another prison.

It it impossible to tell whether or not any of the five deaths in eight months where it was suspected that illicit drugs might have played a role, could have been prevented if that equipment had been delivered on time, but it is clear that it must now be brought in without further delay.

It will not solve the problem overnight, but will give new impetus to measures already being taken by managers to improve things. Giving them the tools to do their job is the absolute least that the government can do to support staff in their efforts – and to protect inmates.