Officer reveals drug dealers have hijacked Friday prayers in prison

Prison officer reveals Friday prayers at a young offenders institution have been hijacked as an opportunity for practicing Muslims to distribute drugs and phones – as one inmate boasts ‘rules are made to be broken’

  • Deerbolt prison houses over 100 practicing Muslim men aged between 18-24 
  • Some inmates violence in chapel and distract officers so others can deal drugs 
  • Violence Reduction office Rick Martin said it had become a ‘hairy’ situation  

A prison officer revealed how Friday prayers at a young offenders institution have been overtaken by drugs, contraband and phones in Inside Prison: Britain Behind Bars.

Last night’s episode of the ITV show told how Deerbolt prison in County Durham houses over 100 practicing Muslim men aged between 18 to 24 – and offers prayers in a chapel every week. 

However, staff who worked there explained how prayers have recently been hijacked by violent offenders and drug dealers, who set out to wreak havoc in the service.

Violence Reduction officer Rick Martin said: ‘It’s quite a hairy situation. [There’s] A lot of people involved. Guys are trying to surge out the chapel, a lot of these guys are drug dealers. I work very closely with the Imam, to make it as decent and a space as we can.’

In last night’s episode ITV’s Inside Prison: Britain Behind Bars, staff at Deerbolt prison revealed they were struggling to manage drug dealers who were hijacking the weekly Muslim prayer service (pictured, inside the chapel)

In Deerbolt prison there are over 100 practicing Muslim men aged between 18 to 24. Pictured, one of the inmates

Miss Barclay, Custody Manager, who is tasked with keeping order, admitted it was hard to keep control of the young offenders.

‘What starts as play fighting can quite often turn into full scale violence,’ she explained. 

Every Friday, around 100 Muslim inmates congregate at the chapel to take part in Jamal prayers.

Immad Muhammad Meah, Head of Chaplancy, vocalised how vital the service was for inmates.

Pictured, a weekly Muslim prayer service at HMYOI Deerbolt in County Durham

Following weeks of violence and unrest, caused by the influx of drugs and mobile phone being smuggled in, a clamp was put in force. Pictured, Rick Martin with Imam

‘People come not to just take part in the prayers, they will come too for association,’ he said. ‘They will talk to each other and have a laugh at the same time. I have a responsibility of making sure everyone is safe in this area.’

However, it was revealed the safety had been threatened in recent weeks after a number of fights had broken out in the chapel between inmates – with some suspecting worshippers were exploiting the service to smuggle illicit items.

‘We have intelligence to suggest two guys have been paid to cause violence to create a distraction so another group can pass drugs and pass phones,’ said Violence Reduction Officer, Rick Martin.

The Imam added: ‘We look through all the CCTV, all the body camera footage, all the intelligence coming in.’

In the episode, it was revealed that Jonaid al Hassain was one of the prisoners causing chaos in the prayers

Speaking of his aims for weekly prayers, Imam said: ‘My focus is to have split services. We want people to have access to weekly service in the most safe possible way’

‘Anyone who may be part of the problem or creating a disturbance in Friday prayers – we will have to ban them.’ 

One prisoner who continued to cause chaos in the prayers was identified as Jonaid al Hassain.

The 25-year-old was serving time for drug related offences, but also found ways to ‘clean up’ inside, having accumulated £80 worth of shower gels in his cell.

His reputation as a wheeler dealer drew unwanted attention from prison security, leading him to be banned from Friday prayers.

‘They’re saying drugs are being passed, this is being passed – but they’re just presuming s***, before they even know what is going on,’ he explained. 

‘You’ve never caught anyone doing nothing. Looking for anyone to do anything. They let me go to work, they let me go gym, but they don’t let me go chapel? Don’t make no sense.’

He added: ‘Rules are made to be broken man. It’s a game in it. I play the game.’

‘Smart phones, little phones, drugs, spice, cocaine. Everything is available man. At a price. You’ve got to be two steps ahead in jail. They’ve tried to do sh** about it, but hey can’t. We’re just too clever for them man.’

One inmate who was found to be causing mischief said of the policies in place: ‘Rules are made to be broken man. It’s a game in it. I play the game.’ Pictured, inmates

Violence Reduction Officer Rick Martin told how the staff had intelligence to suggest two guys had been paid to cause violence to create a distraction so another group can pass drugs and pass phones (pictured)

The prison team introduced a metal detector into the entrance of chapel in order to scan the men before they enter the prayer room.

And Duty governor Flack spelled out the new safety plan to groups at Friday plans, saying: ‘If you don’t want to come to chapel, then you don’t have to. If you want to mess about, you’ll be removed.’

But the news doesn’t go down well, and another fight soon disrupted the prayers.  

‘We’ve had weeks and weeks and weeks of the disruption to the Muslim service,’ said police officer Nick Martin. ‘Nobody wants confrontation in a place of worship, but unfortunately sometimes it must be done.’

Later, Flack went to meet the Imam and asked him how certain men felt from being excluded from prayer.

‘They feel the prison can’t cater for their needs, they feel violated,’ he explained. ‘My focus is to have split services. We want people to have access to weekly service in the most safe possible way.’

Later, he told how he’d reviewed who could come to chapel and allowed Jonaid to return to prayer.

‘It’s important from a faith perspective to teach them about what is expected at chapel,’ he said. ‘I want people to pray, we want people to have access to prayer.’

The prison team introduced a metal detector into the entrance of chapel in order to scan the men before they enter the prayer room. Pictured, a prisoner

After reviewing who could come to chapel, the Imam (pictured with inmates) said: ‘It’s important from a faith perspective to teach them about what is expected at chapel’

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