SJUK Masthead Black

New prison scanners in drug and phone war

January 11, 2023


New scanners are being installed at the gates of prisons in a bid to crackdown on phone and drug smuggling.

The Deputy Prime Minister said more than 80 of the hi-tech X-ray machines will be installed by the end of March.

These are in addition to body scanners, drug-trace machines and metal detection archways that have stopped tens of thousands of items from being smuggled into prisons.

A Ministry of Justice (MoJ) statement said: “For the first time, prisons beyond the high security estate will use the new, improved machines to check baggage brought in by the thousands of staff and visitors who enter and exit prisons every day.”

So far, the machine have stopped:

  • 99 sheets of ‘spice’ paper, worth almost £60,000 inside prisons, hidden in a cardboard box with a false bottom;
  • nearly £40,000 worth of cannabis and tobacco concealed in curry and beef stew tins; and
  • a bottle of washing-up liquid that tested positive for heroin.

The MoJ said: “The 44 most challenging prisons will be the first to benefit from the machines, developed by VMI Security, which offer high-quality, sharp images to detect drugs, phones and high-density materials that often fuel violence behind bars.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary, Dominic Raab, said: “These X-ray bag scanners are a powerful addition to the body scanners, drug-trace machines, metal detection archways and extra drug dogs we have added in recent years to keep drugs, mobile phones and other contraband out of our prisons.

“This is getting more prisoners off drugs, and helping to keep our streets safer.”


The MoJ says the latest development follows the success of its 75 X-ray body scanners, across 74 male prisons, which have disrupted around 20,000 attempts to smuggle harmful items into prisons in two years.

Last year, dozens of prisons were also kitted out with new drug-trace machines that can detect microscopic smears of new psychoactive substances such as ‘spice’ on mail and items of clothing, stopping dangerous drugs from getting onto wings.

The MoJ said the £100 million investment into cutting-edge security across the prison estate forms part of the Prisons Strategy White Paper, published just over a year ago.

It added: “The comprehensive plan committed to making prisons safer, modern and more innovative for the thousands of people who work and are held in them – including a zero-tolerance approach to the smuggling of dangerous contraband which can thwart prisoners in their efforts to rehabilitate.”

Read Next

Security Journal UK

Subscribe Now

£99.99 for each year
No payment items has been selected yet