A prison watchdog has called for urgent action after finding inmates at Stocken Prison in the East Midlands, are getting their friends and relatives to send them books and letters soaked in legal hallucinogenic drugs.
In its annual report, the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) called on Prisons’ Minister Andrew Selous to take immediate steps to combat the escalating use of hard to detect legal drugs, called Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS).
The drugs, which have been compared to LSD, are “impregnated into paper and imported into the prison,” presenting even more challenges in regulating and detecting them, according to the report.
The IMB chairman Mike Siswick warned: “Stocken, like many other prisons in the UK, is increasingly afflicted by the new scourge of NPS. These substances, still largely undetectable, create significant and serious behavioral problems affecting security and control.”
The report reads: “They are less easy to detect because of variable content. Normal methods of detection, particularly the use of search dogs, have only limited success. Testing equipment for NPS is limited and very expensive.
“This increasing problem is now of critical importance if prisons are to remain safe and secure with those held within them prevented from inflicting damage, possibly long-term damage, on themselves and perhaps others,” the report added.
Siswick urged ministers to take on the increased cost in order to protect both staff and inmates.
“Clearly there is a considerable cost to this but it is one which must be worth bearing. Failure by the Ministry of Justice to take urgent measures could have very serious implications for the safety of staff and prisoners,” he said.
“Legislation, though difficult, is urgently needed to reduce external availability of these so called legal highs which are obtainable in nearby towns and on line.
“Access to these substances generates debt, bullying and intimidation, together conspiring to diminish the otherwise good levels of safety and security established within the prison by sound and caring management.”
In addition to the paper-soaking methods, Stocken prisoners have attempted to smuggle the substances in other creative ways. In September, an investigation was launched after Stocken staff found £29,000 of NPS hidden in a set of speakers that a prisoner tried to transfer from HMP Nottingham.