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Prison authorities suspect personnel of smuggling contraband to inmates

Some prison officers are said to be afraid to work in cell blocks controlled by the United Brotherhood criminal gang.

Mies vankilan portilla.
File photo. Image: Antti Haanpää / Yle

Finland’s Criminal Sanctions Agency, Rise, has said that there are indications that prison personnel have had a hand in trafficking forbidden items to prisoners.

In an expert report, Rise said that prison authorities have regularly come across items such as phones, knives, narcotics and other prohibited items in all of its closed cell blocks. The statement said that this indicates that members of staff have participated in smuggling at least phones and phone accessories to inmates.

The report obtained by Finnish news agency STT is part of evidentiary material included in a lawsuit filed by the National Police Board. Police top brass and the prosecutor are calling for the courts to immediately impose an interim suspension on the United Brotherhood - a Finnish underworld network and its offshoot the Bad Union - and to ban them.

Attempts to intimidate prison staff

Based on information received from gang members, there is also reason to suspect that prison employees have been pressured to work for the benefit of inmates who are members of organised crime groups.

Authorities have also found lists, which Rise has said contain the addresses of prison officials considered by the United Brotherhood to be uncooperative, as well as registration information and descriptions of their cars, trailers and boats. Officials believe that the aim of such activities has been to intimidate officials and their families.

According to the report, some prison personnel are afraid to work in cell blocks controlled by criminal gangs. Rise described the United Brotherhood as the most powerful and feared criminal organisation in Finnish prisons.

Gang members on the outside attempt to help their incarcerated peers by any means, regardless of the crimes they may have committed. The group’s inmates may be provided with financial assistance by way of random account transfers or hard cash that is handed over during prison visits.

Prison officers' org pushes back against report

Meanwhile the prison officers' association VVL said that it is outrageous that matters still under investigation are revealed to the public and described the report as a smear.

"In no circumstances can you discredit all prison staff, if you are talking about a few isolated cases," union president Antti Santamäki said in a statement on Friday.

The association noted that since spring it had stressed that threats, violence and coercion by the United Brotherhood had increased.

"UB has crossed a line. Apparently the central government has also crossed a line in the most egregious way by blaming the entire staff for smuggling contraband into prisons. This exposes in stark language the government's appreciation for employees," Santamäki added.

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