Prisons: Drugs

Ministry of Justice written question – answered on 28th June 2019.

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Photo of Liz Saville-Roberts Liz Saville-Roberts Shadow PC Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Women and Equalities) , Plaid Cymru Westminster Leader, Shadow PC Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of the (a) prevalence, (b) type of drug, (c) method of importation and (b) health risks to (i) prisoners and (ii) staff of the presence of illegal drugs in prisons in England and Wales.

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

HMPPS measures the prevalence of drug use in prisons through random mandatory drug testing of prisoners. These test for a wide range of drugs including psychoactive substances as defined in the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016. In 2017/18, 20.4% of samples tested positive for drugs.

Psychoactive Substances (PS), as defined in the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016, are the most prevalent drug type in prison. Psychoactive substances were present in 60% of all positive samples in 2017/18, overtaking cannabis (28%), opiates (11%) and buprenorphine (10%). HMPPS is continuing to develop its drug testing frameworks to respond to the changing patterns of misuse in prisons.

Drugs can enter prison through a number of routes including being thrown over the wall or flown over by drone, via mail, visits, forced recalls (offenders who intentionally breach their licence in order to be recalled), and corrupt staff. The extent to which individual routes are used varies over time and across the estate and is influenced by a range of static and dynamic factors. HMPPS monitors these routes by gathering intelligence and working with law enforcement partners.

HMPPS is working with unions, independent scientists and clinicians to assess the impact of secondary exposure to psychoactive substances on staff and prisoners. A program of staff post-exposure biological testing is being expanded and will explore prisoner and staff experiences of secondary exposure to assess the risk.

To respond to the risk from drugs in prisons, we are strengthening our gate and perimeter security, drafting specialist search teams into prisons across the country and investing in physical and technical security counter measures. Alongside this, HMPPS has developed a new, national Prison Drugs Strategy, published in April 2019. The strategy outlines how HMPPS is working to restrict the supply of drugs, reduce demand through rehabilitative activities, and support prisoners to build recovery from substance misuse.

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