Warning over psychoactive drugs in Scotland’s prisons

Barlinnie, Scotland's biggest prison. Picture: John Devlin
Barlinnie, Scotland's biggest prison. Picture: John Devlin
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The presence of psychoactive substances is undermining the “sense of safety” in Scotland prisons, it has been warned.

A report published today by the chief inspector of prisons said a recent inspection of HMP Inverness had found an influx of “Spice”, an illegal new psychoactive substance (NPS), which was thought to be arriving in prisoners’ mail.

David Strang said the drug’s availability had created “uncertainty and anxiety” in the prison, which houses around 100 inmates.

Mr Strang said the presence of NPS had become an “emerging theme” from recent inspections of other prisons and he called on the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) to carry out research into the problem.

The use of NPS has been linked to a number of deaths in prisons in England and Wales, as well as a series of violent incidents.

Mr Strang said staff and prisoners at HMP Inverness believed the substances were entering the prison on drug-soaked pieces of paper.

He said: “It was clear that in recent weeks staff and prisoners had witnessed individuals acting in an unusual and unpredictable manner, and it had been put down to the effects of these ‘unknown substances’.

“Staff and prisoners reported that it was their belief that it was, in the main, entering the prison by means of paper soaked in the substance arriving in prisoners’ mail.”

On the general subject of NPS, he added: “This is a common emerging theme from recent inspections, where staff and prisoners have expressed concerns about how the unpredictability of prisoners who had allegedly consumed NPS had adversely affected the sense of safety and order in establishments.”

Elsewhere in his report, Mr Strang said some areas of HMP Inverness, which opened in 1902, are “no longer fit for purpose”, with the jail no longer big enough to cope with the number of offenders being sent there.

An SPS spokeswoman said: “SPS take the issues of substance misuse in our establishments very seriously.

“A comprehensive range of robust security measures are in place to prevent the introduction of contraband into our prisons.

“Significant investment continues to be made in the development of new technology and staff training to detect, deter and reduce the availability and supply of illegal drugs. Anyone found in possession of contraband is reported to the appropriate authorities.”