Drug use at Wigan prison soars in five years

The quantity of drugs found by Hindley Jail staff has rocketed in the last five years.

Monday, 3rd September 2018, 4:10 pm
Updated Tuesday, 4th September 2018, 10:06 am
Huge increase in drugs
Huge increase in drugs

Prison reform charity the Howard League says the increase in prison contraband, including drugs and mobile phones, reflects wider failings in the penal system.

In the 12 months to March 2018, 223 searches uncovered drugs within the borough prison: 56 times more than in 2013. Over the same period, 44 per cent of the mandatory drug tests returned a positive result, figures from the Ministry of Justice and Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service show. In total, inmates failed 141 of the 324 tests conducted in the institution.

For the first time this year, the figures include psychoactive substances such as spice, the abuse of which has increasingly become a concern. Excluding them, 33 per cent of tests returned a positive result for “traditional” drugs, such as cannabis and methadone – 16 times the 2013 rate.

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The most common single drug found to have been taken in Hindley was cannabis, which was found in 71 per cent of samples.

The Hindley situation reflects the national picture, where 20 per cent of all prison drug tests in England and Wales were positive.Howard League campaigns director Andrew Neilson said the finds of drugs and other contraband – including mobiles, 242 of which were found in Hindley in the last year – were symptomatic of wider problems in the system.

He said: “This is a symptom of the problems in an overburdened and under-resourced prison system that is failing the public. Where there is drug abuse there is also debt and violence, and these problems have become more severe in prisons across England and Wales as overcrowding and staff shortages take their toll.

“The best way to reduce the supply of drugs into prisons is to reduce the demand for them. This means ensuring prisons are properly resourced and prisoners occupied with purposeful activity, such as work, education, training and exercise. Above all, we need to see bold but sensible action to reduce the prison population. This would save lives, protect staff and prevent more people being swept away into deeper currents of crime and despair.”

Justice secretary David Gauke said: “New psychoactive substances are a game changer for prison safety, and these statistics reinforce the scale of the challenge. We are addressing this head on, and our £7m investment in prison security will further bolster defences via airport-security style scanners, improved searching techniques and phone-blocking technology.

“We are also adopting pioneering approaches such as our Drug Recovery Prison pilot at HMP Holme House, which is leading the way in tackling the supply of drugs and putting offenders on a long-term path to recovery."