Members of the public are regularly caught trying to smuggle drugs and alcohol into a jail, say bosses.

On at least five occasions this year, guards have caught people attempting to sneak in contraband for inmates at Ford prison, near Arundel.

Most are thought to be friends or family of prisoners.

On each occasion, staff have called police, who arrested the offenders.

It comes after The Argus revealed one in seven inmates at Sussex jails tested positive for drugs.

In 2005 and 2006, 16 per cent of inmates at Ford prison failed mandatory drugs tests.

That figure fell slightly over the past year, to 13.8 per cent of inmates.

Ford prison governor Fiona Radford said: "I am pleased to see recent improvements in security for the whole prison have had such pleasing results.

"The incidents outline the effective supervision by my staff and our good use of intelligence.

"We are grateful for the excellent support given to us by Sussex Police and the Crown Prosecution Service in helping us bring suppliers to justice."

Ford prison also announced it had secured the joint highest ranking for any jail in Sussex, Kent and Surrey after its recent Prison Service security audit.

It shared the top spot with Lewes prison.

Results of a self-audit by the prison put it in the top five per cent of British jails.

Mrs Radford said: "We are very happy to share this mark with our sister establishment in Sussex, HMP Lewes, and believe this shows the Sussex public are uniquely protected by the good security systems in place in both prisons.

"While we are not complacent given these good results I am very pleased to report on my staff's hard work and their high levels of motivation and commitment."

The results come after a turbulent period for Ford prison, in which a number of inmates escaped and the Home Office removed a large number of foreign prisoners when it was revealed many were escaping before the Government could carry out deportation orders on them.

Official figures show since 2002, more than 500 inmates have fled the jail, which in the past has played host to a number of highprofile figures, including George Best and Jonathan Aitkin.

Previously the jail has hit the headlines for allowing inmates serving the tail-end of sentences to drive buses and carry out other work in the community.

Prison bosses say this is vital for its work rehabilitating offenders back into normal society.