Drug Use in Prison Linked to Increase in Violence

In May 2017 we posted an article looking at how UK prisons have been impacted by the availability and devastating impacts of legal high substances; along with the strain that is being placed on prison staff and services.

The report highlighted the dangers of legal highs which were made evident when a prison officer collapsed and convulsed on the floor after accidentally inhaling the synthetic cannabis substitute ‘Spice.’ With ease of access to psychoactive substances within prisons, staff are finding themselves under extreme pressure to cope with the burdens this places on the system.

In this article we are examining how continued drug use strain is affecting UK prisons.

The Times claims that violence in jails in England and Wales has hit a record high with increases in assaults on staff and prisoner-on-prisoner attacks. Violent assaults in UK prisons rose 14% to 27,000 including 3,600 serious attacks in the year to the end of June 2017.

The number of attacks when broken down is shown as, 19,600 prisoner-on-prisoner assaults which is up 10% on the previous year and highest on record. The total attacks on prison staff accumulated as 7,400 which again is a record, rising 25%.

A significant contributor to the surge in violence has been attributed to the widespread use of legal highs such as Spice. The Chief Inspector of prisons Peter Clarke has said that much of the violence and bullying that did exist was, in his view linked to a ‘significant drug problem and yet the prison lacked an effective drug strategy.’

The BBC have also reported on a rise in violence in prisons being brought about by drug use. It is claimed that in prisons such as HMP Erlestoke, prisoners can buy the drug Spice at half the price of tobacco after introducing a smoking ban. The use of this legal high has also resulted in frequent medical emergencies some of which are very serious. To tackle this there has been fresh recruitment of staff with the intention of bringing a level of stability to a very overcrowded system. However, the rate of violent incidents continues to grow.

Michael Spurr from HM Prison and Probation Service said

“The supply and use of illicit psychoactive drugs had undermined safety in the prison. The governor is working with partners including the police and treatment agencies to address this issue as a priority.”

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