Prison Watchdog Warns of Synthetic Drug Crisis

A prison deaths watchdog has warned that there is an out of control epidemic of prison synthetic drugs, with signs that the impact is making its way to bail hostels and immigration removal centres.

According to the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, inmates are dying at an alarming rate due to the drug misuse in the jails and prisons.

Acting PPO Elizabeth Moody wrote in her yearly 2017-2018 report that psychoactive substances, so called legal highs, like spice are a huge reason for the prison crisis both in Wales and England. According to the report, using these drugs is totally out of control because they are so widely available.

Some of the consequences of bad psychoactive substance batches include multiple prisoners collapsing at one time, inability to handle immediate demand on the prison’s resources and death.

Bail hostels, probation and other approved premises are in charge of people who need extra support and supervision when released back into the community or while on court orders or bail.

According to the review, the rampant use of these substances in prison is well-known, but the probation service must address the consequences for approved premises.

The ombudsman noted that a number of the prison deaths related to illegal drug use such as deliberate or accidental overdoses, suicides that were the results of a drug-induced change or were the response of bullying or drug-related debts, respiratory failure and heart attacks.

Many deaths were caused by cocaine, heroin or illegally-traded prescription drugs.

In an effort to protest the conditions in Wales and England prisons, thousands of prison officers participated in a walkout. Personnel and inmates at the England and Wales prisons have seen an increase in the number of self-harm and assaults cases as well as a rise in both drug and phone seizures.

There have been a recorded 9,000+ number of attacks on prison staff from 2017 to March 2018; 892 of those attacks have been deemed serious. Prison attacks have also risen to a record 31,025 in 2017. Based on the latest information from the Ministry of Justice, this is an increase of 16 percent from the year before.

The MoJ said, in July, it was making a £30m investment with £16 of it going to improve prisoners and staff conditions and £7 of it going to improve security measures like phone-blocking technology, airport-style scanners, etc.

The next month, the MoJ said it would invest another £10 to deal with 10 of the problem prisons, in the hopes to cut off the flow of phones and drugs.

According to the recently released inspection report, HMP Chelmsford prison offers has seized over £15,000 worth of contraband in one month. In just one month, the HM Inspectorate of Prisons noted the prison found 44 mobile phones and 28 drug packages during their searches and another 18 packages were thrown over the prison wall.

Searches conducted throughout the prison also found cell phone related items, cocaine, heroin and other drugs.

Many of the Essex prisoners are men who are connected to organized crime gangs and are mainly responsible for the contraband coming into the prison.

HMP said jail violence levels are way too high, and there’s been an inadequate response to suicides and other self-harm incidents.

Photo Credit: “prison” (CC BY 2.0) by meeshypants

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