Prison service bosses say a rise in seizures of mobile phones and SIM cards from criminals behind bars shows they are tackling the issue.
North East prisons have seen a huge hike in the number of mobile phones and SIM card seizures.
It comes as the total number of confiscations of mobile phones and SIM cards has risen nationwide from 9,640 in 2014 to 15,082 in 2017, a 56% rise.
The rate of discoveries has increased from an average of nine discoveries per 100 prisoners in 2011, to at least 18 per 100 prisoners last year. Or the equivalent of one in six inmates was found with a handset in 2017.
The following figures show how many mobiles and SIM cards recovered in North East prisons in 2017, 2014 and in 2011:
Durham Prison saw 122 in 2017, none in 2014 and 41 in 2011, a rise of 196% between 2017 and 2011;
Frankland Prison saw 29 in 2017, 5 in 2014 and 2 in 2011, a rise of 1350% between 2017 and 2011;
Holme House Prison saw 93 in 2017, 105 in 2014 and 15 in 2011, a rise of 520% between 2017 and 2011;
Kirklevington Prison saw saw 17 in 2017, 19 in 2014 and 15 in 2011, a rise of 13% between 2017 and 2011;
Low Newton Prison 1 in 2017, 1 in 2014 and 3 in 2011, a fall of 66% between 2017 and 2011;
Northumberland Prison saw 218 in 2017, 170 in 2014 and 15 in 2011, a rise of 1353% between 2017 and 2011.
A Prison Service spokesperson said: “These statistics show that we are successfully stopping contraband from entering the prison estate. Better intelligence and improved security measures are allowing us to catch more illicit items than ever before.
“However, we acknowledge that more must be done and as Minister [Rory] Stewart has previously stated, there are only five ways in which contraband can be smuggled into prisons and we are taking steps to tackle all five. We’ve addressed flying contraband in by tackling drones, the throwing over of items by the use of nets and searches, the dragging in of items by identifying wires and the posting of drugs by photocopying letters.
“We are also taking decisive action to find and block mobile phones, including a £2m investment in detection equipment. We have legislated to stop phones from being used in prisons. In addition, 300 specialist prison dogs have been trained in drugs detection to help stem the flow of illicit substances into our prisons, allowing officers to focus their efforts on reforming and turning the lives around of offenders.
“The measures are part of a much wider strategy to tackle the most pressing threats to security in prisons and backed by a strengthening of the frontline with an additional 3,111 prison officers in place at the end of March 2018 than were in post in October 2016.”