A member of the watchdog that monitors conditions at HMP Liverpool has been suspended after allegedly bringing drugs and a mobile phone to a prisoner.
The Guardian understands that the person, who sits on a board that oversees the prison to maintain standards, was arrested and suspended about six weeks ago but has not been charged with any crime.
In a separate incident, a prison officer at the men’s category B jail has also been arrested and charged with drug offences after a targeted operation by officers investigating organised crime.
The law requires every prison to be monitored by an independent board (IMB), made up of members of the community where the prison is situated.
IMB members, who are unpaid volunteers, therefore have unrestricted access to their local prison and a right of access to every prisoner, every part of the prison, and to the prison’s records. They can talk to any prisoner they wish to out of sight and hearing of prison staff members.
HMP Liverpool, a Victorian prison that serves men from the Merseyside area, was described by official inspectors as having the worst living conditions that they could recall in a report published in 2018. Two-thirds of prisoners told the inspectors it was easy or very easy to obtain drugs.
The report described half of the prisoners being locked in their cells during the working day and drug-carrying drones as a serious problem.
The last report written by IMB members into conditions at the Merseyside prison published in October 2020 said that prisoners had told members of the board that drugs were “readily available”.
The report says “this fact undoubtedly contributed to the increase in violence during 2019”. It goes on to say the prison had been using a body scanner to target prisoners suspected of carrying illicit items and that “good intelligence work has led to the successful recovery of drugs prisoners have been trying to smuggle into the establishment”.
“As a result of a targeted operation, a prison officer at HMP Liverpool has been charged with drug offences. As the matter is subject to a criminal prosecution the POA cannot comment,” said Mark Fairhurst, the national chair of the Prison Officers Association.
The Guardian have approached the Ministry of Justice and Merseyside police for comment.