Prison Officer Awarded Compensation After Inhaling Inmates’ Drugs

A prison officer has been awarded compensation after suffering serious health effects from inhaling second-hand smoke from illicit drugs used by inmates. The incident occurred at HMP Shotts in Scotland in 2019.

The officer was exposed to toxic fumes from psychoactive substances while dealing with intoxicated prisoners. He became disoriented and aggressive before being hospitalised. The exposure left him with short-term physical injuries and long-term mental health problems.

The officer sued his employer, the Scottish Prison Service (SPS), and the case was settled out of court last year. Full details were not released but it is understood a payout was made over the SPS’s failure to protect its employee.

The lawyer who handled the case described it as complex but highlighted the duty of care owed by the SPS. A spokesperson for the SPS said it was working hard to tackle the harm caused by illegal drugs.

Smoking Out a Growing Problem

The use of illicit substances, particularly synthetic cannabinoids like Spice, is an increasing challenge across the Scottish prison system. When smoked, these drugs can produce a strong second-hand smoke that engulfs nearby individuals. Prison officers are routinely exposed to these toxic fumes as part of their job.

During the pandemic, drug seizures in jails almost doubled. But new approaches, like photocopying all incoming mail, have started to disrupt supply routes. Drone deliveries over prison walls and drug-soaked clothing are just some of the ways determined inmates continue to access narcotics.

Last year, a guard at HMP Shotts was jailed for smuggling drugs and mobile phones to prisoners. But most contraband finds its way in through visitors or the post. Officers then have to manage prisoners under the influence, despite the risks to their own health.

Vapours from psychoactive drugs like Spice are known to produce powerful hallucinogenic effects. Officers are expected to continue their duties even when inmates are smoking illegal substances nearby. But as this prison officer found out, one exposure can be enough to hospitalise you.

Photo by Zoom Testing

Zoom Testing is a leading UK drug testing company and a supplier of Drug Test Kits.

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