Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Go to Prison : Try Drugs

I have been stirred from my recent sojourn by the recent report on HMP Durham by Nick Hardwick, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons. He confirms what we've all known for ages, namely that significant numbers of people go to prison 'clean' and come out addicted to drugs. I suspect Durham might well be worse than many prisons, but then it's long been an over-crowded, run down Cat B 'local' struggling to cope with huge demands placed upon it by virtue of having to serve as a remand prison.

We know that sadly some prison staff in all establishments play a significant part in drug smuggling due to the vast profits that can be generated. And in the case of Durham, we can only speculate about the current state of staff morale at a time when NOMS is putting the jail through compulsory competition with the private sector. In reaching the current sad state of affairs, it's also worth remembering the part played by former Home Secretary Michael Howard who introduced mandatory drug testing within the prison system.

One of the unintended consequences of this action was to introduce a perverse incentive for prisoners to move from their regular cannabis habit to that of heroin as they soon discovered that traces of the former stayed in the body much longer than that of the latter substance. So, in one simple administrative, but politically-expedient step, we moved from a situation of relative toleration of cannabis use, which many prison officers felt kept things calm on the wings, to an explosion in heroin use and associated violence within prisons.

I notice that Nick Hardwick still clings to the naive belief that the problem can be solved by increased security. So, yet another example of the Establishment hanging on to the view that the 'War on Drugs' can be won if you chuck more resources at it.   


  1. Off-topic; I would love to see a blog post from you on the current Probation Review "Punishment & Reform: Effective Probation Services"


    1. Thanks for that - it's in my 'to do' pile.

  2. Read Heather Heaton's new ebooks "Her Letters from Prison: Part 1 & Part 2" and you will know why you don't want to go to prison - especially if you are a woman!