SCORES of drugs smuggled into mail rooms, and bladed weapons uncovered in the showers were among hundreds of illicit items found stashed in HMP Bullingdon.

Shocking figures revealed by a freedom of information request found more than 500 items of contraband were confiscated from inmates in the Oxfordshire prison in one year.

'Zombie drug' spice, mobile phones and knives were among the biggest finds for prison officers as recent figures revealed almost double the number of illicit items confiscated during 2017/18, the last year that figures were given, compared to a similar period in the previous year.

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The number of smuggled items found has rocketed in comparison across a number of areas including contraband such as needles, distilling equipment, pipes, cannabis, crack, phones and charges, sim cards, and weapons.

These were found across various areas with cells being the most likely hiding place, but the figures also revealed illicit items uncovered in visiting rooms, showers, the gym, in the wings, the exercise yard, mail room, and reception.

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HMP Bullingdon governor Ian Blakeman said contraband is still a challenge within the prison, but puts the rise in items found down to better detection methods.

He said: "We now have more staff so are doing lots more searching.

"In the last two years our staffing numbers have increased significantly.

"We also have a much better presence from a team of dog handlers giving us cover every day. In addition to the Prison Service South Directorate which has formed a Dedicated Search Team in the last year who we call upon regularly."

Total finds for 2017/18 sit at 503 items of contraband smuggled in to the prison, which compares to 273 the year previous.

Officers uncovered more than double the number of items recorded as alcohol/hooch - largely found in prisoner's cells - confiscating 75 items.

The number is up from 34 incidents of alcohol uncovered during 2016/17.

Other illicit items included 74 phones being found, compared to 56 the year before.

Among 91 weapons found overall during April 2017 to March 2018, 40 were knives or bladed weapons - up 14 from the year before.

Prisoner John Garcia was caught in April 2018 with a lethal 'shank' after guards raided a cell looking for booze.

The 21-year old had fused two toothbrushes connected to a strong piece of wire, forming a seven inch long weapon.

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A huge spike also came in the amount of Spice uncovered by officers - 62 incidents compared to 39 the year before.

The freedom of information request also revealed that, in some instances, the drug was found in the visiting room, reception, and mail room.

It comes after this newspaper reported issues with post being sent to inmates laced in drugs, providing a new way for prisoners to smoke the drug by burning their letters.

Officers soon put a stop to this by photocopying every letter that is sent to inmates before the correspondence is handed over.

Mr Blakeman added: "In terms of drug use, our drug test failure rates have gone down significantly and we now have a drug recovery wing where prisoners can get help to stay away from drugs."

The drug, also known as a zombie drug due to its effect on those who take it, has in the past been blamed for contributing to the violence reported within HMP Bullingdon.

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But Mr Blakeman said alongside the growing number of confiscations at Bullingdon, it has also seen a reduction in violence since April 2019.

He added: "In short the picture is still challenging but it has improved."