Prisons: Synthetic Cannabinoids

Ministry of Justice written question – answered on 24th October 2018.

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Photo of Jared O'Mara Jared O'Mara Independent, Sheffield, Hallam

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what strategy his Department has to tackle the use of synthetic cannabinoids in prisons.

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

We have formed a Drugs Taskforce working with law enforcement and health partners across government to reduce substance misuse including psychoactive substances (PS) in prisons. The Taskforce is developing a Prison Drugs Strategy for publication this autumn which supports and complements the National Drugs Strategy published by the Home Office in 2017. Our approach is centred around the same three objectives: restricting supply, reducing demand and building recovery. We are supporting prisons in reducing all types of drug use, with a particular focus on PS and the unique challenges they bring. In September 2016, we became the first prison service in the world to introduce innovative mandatory drug tests for psychoactive substances, a significant step in tackling the supply and use of them. We have made it a criminal offence to possess psychoactive substances in prison and trained more than 300 sniffer dogs specifically to detect these drugs. We will shortly be providing guidance on how to counter the evolving methods used by suppliers such as impregnated paper. The creation of a new specialist Financial Crime Unit to identify and disrupt the organised crime gangs fuelling drug dealing in prisons was announced by the Secretary of State for Justice at the Conservative Party Conference. The unit is staffed by members of the Police and Prison Service and is able to freeze bank accounts linked to organised crime and to make arrests. This action will cut the supply of drugs to prisoners and prevent money reaching criminal kingpins. We are supporting Bim Afolami MP’s Private Member’s Bill on substance testing in prisons. This legislation will simplify and strengthen the drug testing framework, allowing us to test for all psychoactive substances, as well as prescription-only and pharmacy medicines, helping to identify where they are being abused.

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