Birmingham prison staff fears over inmate drug use
An "urgent" solution is needed to stop HMP Birmingham prisoners taking psychoactive drugs, a report says.
Many staff are concerned that inmates are taking substances which can make them violent and show signs of extreme strength, stretching the resources of the privately-run site.
The Independent Monitoring Board report said although the prison continues to improve, staff numbers must grow.
A prison spokesman said it is working "relentlessly" to stop drugs coming in.
The report, which covered July 2015 to June this year, said board members were "impressed" with the way staff respond and support inmates but they regularly face the challenge of drugs smuggled into the prison, and high rate of sickness makes their job harder.
Prison officers at the category B jail are concerned about how to deal with being attacked by inmates who have taken synthetic drugs.
The use of so-called legal highs was a factor in at least 19 prisoner deaths between 2012 and 2014, the Prisons and Probations Ombudsman said last year.
Rodger Lawrence, chairman of the monitoring board, said: "The use of new psychoactive substances (NPS), including what is known as 'mamba', continue to impact on all aspects of prison life and a solution to the problem is urgently required.
"The disturbing effects of widespread use of life-threatening NPS provide a significant challenge to the prison."
He added that staff shortages were "a major issue" for the prison, affecting morale, wellbeing and efficiency.
Pete Small, G4S director for HMP Birmingham, said tackling use of the new substances was a "constant challenge" and the report recognised the work his team were doing with the police to catch those bringing drugs in.