SMUGGLED tobacco is being traded for 12 times its normal value on the wings of Wiltshire’s only prison.

Prisoners at HMP Erlestoke are paying as much as £150 for a 30 gram bag worth £12 after a smoking ban imposed last year drove the supply underground.

The illicit trade is fuelling a culture of debt and bullying, leading to prisoners being assaulted and even families being threatened to cover what their loved ones owe.

The revelation is just one of a number of concerns raised by the prison’s Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) in its annual report.

Board members found that drugs, including the former legal high Spice, are still being brought into the prison.

Spice can result in serious and unpredictable side effects. The IMB described how ambulances have been called on a number of occasions with prisoners being hospitalised.

In a clear call to action, the report warns prison authorities that unless steps are taken to tackle the problem “it will be only a matter of time before there is a death”.

Safety at HMP Erlestoke, like many sites across the prison estate, continues to be put at risk by the presence of smuggled smartphones.

The report warns phones have “enabled prisoners to get information through the internet, and in some cases, this has led to bullying and misinformation about prisoners being circulated.”

The report also found that while a new wave of officer recruitment is boosting numbers, many lack the experience to be fully effective. Of the 88 prison officers employed at HMP Erlestoke at the time of the report, 34 had been in the role for less than a year. IMB members said the “lack of experience and confidence is a concern.”

The number of prisoners on an Indeterminate Sentence for Public Protection (IPP) and are over tariff is still causing concern to the IMB.

Of the 69 IPP prisoners at Erlestoke at the time of the report, 61 were over tariff with 10.5 years over.

Some 25 were overdue for parole hearings - this leads to uncertainty and frustration which can be the cause of disruptive behaviour or on occasion, self harm.

A Prison Service spokesperson said: “We are committed to transforming prisons into places of safety and reform and have announced a major overhaul of the prison system, including 2,500 extra frontline officers.

“While there remains progress to be made, HMP Erlestoke has addressed a number of concerns raised in the IMB report. The prison has put in place measures to tackle drugs, with increased levels of testing and working closely with local police to prevent and detect contraband entering the prison.

“We welcome the commitment of the prison to providing a range of excellent education opportunities, including the new courses that have been established.”