Prisons: Drugs

Ministry of Justice written question – answered on 19th April 2018.

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Photo of Jim Cunningham Jim Cunningham Labour, Coventry South

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of trends in drug-related deaths of prisoners in each year since 2010; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Rory Stewart Rory Stewart The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

Every death in custody is a tragedy and we work hard to learn any lessons from each one. The Government publishes statistics on deaths in custody quarterly, and updated detailed tables annually. They can be viewed at

The ‘Guide to Safety in Custody Statistics’, published alongside the data, explains that although we monitor drug-related deaths, we do not use this category in published statistics because they are difficult to measure accurately. Deaths known to be drug-related but not believed to be self-inflicted overdoses are included within the “other / non-natural” category. However, this category also includes accidental deaths and the small proportion of deaths in which, even after all investigations have been concluded, the cause remains unknown.

Data about methods used in self-inflicted deaths in prisons is collected, and the number of self-inflicted deaths from overdoses remains low. The number of deaths in the “other / non-natural” category is also low, but we continue to monitor closely the increasing number of deaths in the “awaiting further information” category, because there is at least a suggestion that drugs may have been involved in the vast majority of these cases.

We know that the availability of psychoactive substances is a driver of instability in prisons, so we have implemented a number of measures to address it. They include a new drug testing programme, detection technology and sniffer dogs; and a drugs task force focused on the prisons with the worst drug problems, to tackle demand and supply.

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