Prison authorities have outlined the action being taken in the battle against illicit items entering Jurby jail.

It was revealed in court earlier this month that a gang ringleader had run a drugs trafficking network from his prison cell.

Kyle Molyneux was handed a 20-year jail term for arranging heroin, cocaine and cannabis to be imported to the island.

The court heard he had used a prison-issue mobile phone containing an illicit SIM card to contact members of the organised crime gang.

Manx Independent, August 3, 2023

Some 12 members of the same cross-border crime gang have been convicted as a result of a joint Manx police and North West Regional Crime Unit operation code named Achilles.

Handheld devices, essentially like mobile phones, were issued to prisoners during the pandemic while the main phones on prison wings were out of use due to the risk of cross contamination of the virus.

They were provided to ensure that inmates were still able to keep in touch with their families, friends and legal counsel.

Only authorised numbers were accessible and calls were recorded and screened, a spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs explained.

This changed at the end of 2021, when a new in-cell communication system was introduced – and this is the system that is still in place at the prison.

These in-cell devices cannot be used outside of the cell, and again, only authorised numbers can be dialled.

This uses a fixed landline connection, and so removes the risk of illicit SIM cards being used.

The DHA spokesperson said: ‘The handheld devices were a new addition to the prison during the pandemic, and while this was monitored and reviewed, there are always some within the prison population who look for ways to exploit the system.’

She said it was recognised that unauthorised mobile phone use can serve as a means of continuing criminal activity with the outside world, but that risk can be mitigated through secure in-cell phones procured by the prison service.

‘However, the benefits to both the prisoners and their families of the phones outweighed the disadvantages,’ she said.

‘During the period that the handheld devices were in use, it was discovered that some of the devices were being tampered with, or were not returned when prisoners left custody.

‘In this particular case the prison security processes worked as intended, and the prison worked closely with the police to support them whilst Operation Achilles was ongoing.’

She added: ‘The prison is always adapting and improving security to help prevent ongoing criminal behaviour. This is done through the use of x-ray machines, body scanners, CCTV, intelligence, search dogs, staff training in dynamic security, target and random searching, and the constant reviewing of new technology procedures which are all factors currently deployed in the battle against illicit items and devices entering the prison.’