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Drugs in Prison: who’s controlling who?

  1. Lunar Loops
    This from drinkanddrugs.net :

    Drugs in Prison: who’s controlling who?
    Drugs are taking over the prison system and a strategy overhaul is dangerously overdue,
    suggests Professor Neil McKeganey.

    There is another solution...
    you stop sending your addicts
    to jail in the first place.’

    In the classic nineteen seventies TV
    series ‘Porridge’ ​
    cigarettes are the
    common currency exchanged between
    prisoners, and drugs are not even
    mentioned at all. If the series were
    being remade now it would be illegal
    drugs that were being exchanged
    between prisoners and the laughs
    would be a good deal fewer. Drug abuse,
    in a way that was not even anticipated
    in the seventies, has virtually taken over
    our prison system to the point where
    the system itself is under severe threat.
    There are numerous estimates of the
    number of inmates in Scottish prisons
    with a drug problem and the number
    who are actually using illegal drugs
    within prison. The eighth Scottish Prison
    Service survey found that out of the
    23,206 prisoners admitted in 2005, 62 per
    cent were referred to addictions services.
    Some 50 per cent of those with a drug
    problem had used drugs in prison, with
    heroin being the second most commonly
    used drug after cannabis. Alarming as
    those figures are, the situation in certain
    prisons may be even worse. In the case of
    Corntonvale, Scotland’s only all women
    prison, it has been reported that on
    occasion, approaching 100 per cent of
    women prisoners have a serious drug
    problem. The dangers associated with the
    extent of drug abuse in Scottish jails are
    manifest.
    First, there is the danger that some
    individuals will be entering the prison
    system drug free and acquiring a habit by
    the time they leave. In this situation the
    fact of living day by day alongside other
    prisoners who are using illegal drugs may
    have led some prisoners to start to use
    drugs as a way of coping with prison life.
    Second, there is the danger that
    individuals who enter the prison system
    with a low level drug habit find their
    habit escalating in the face of the sheer
    availability of drugs in prison. Third, there
    is the real danger that the growth of the
    drug economy in prison starts to corrupt
    the prison system itself. A recent leaked
    report from the English Prison Service’s
    anti-corruption unit and the Police
    estimated that there may be as many as
    1,000 corrupt officers working within
    English prisons. Much of that corruption
    is associated with the trade in illegal
    drugs and the provision of mobile phones
    to prisoners. We would be naïve not to

    recognise the potential for similar
    corruption within our own prison system
    and the very strong likelihood that it is
    already occurring. Illegal drug use has an
    unparalleled ability to corrode and corrupt
    because of the enormous sums of money
    involved and the capacity to bribe and
    intimidate those that stand in its way.
    The fourth problem when drugs take
    over, is the fact that a custodial sentence
    may come to be seen by the addict not as
    the loss of their individual freedom, but
    an opportunity to renew old acquaintances
    and establish new contacts that
    may assist the individual’s drug habit on
    the outside. Prisons may not become the
    schools of diverse criminality that many
    once feared, but the breeding grounds for
    an escalating drug problem.
    If these are the problems, what are
    the possible solutions? The first thing
    you need to be able to do is to reduce the
    flow of drugs into prison. That inevitably
    means much closer supervision of prison
    visits as well as prison staff. But what
    would a prison look like, that carried out
    such a high level of supervision? It would
    be immeasurably more unpleasant for
    the prisoners as well as the staff, and in
    its own way that much more difficult to
    manage. There would also almost
    certainly be much wider use of drug
    testing of prisoners.
    But simply finding out if a prisoner
    has used illegal drugs is not enough. We
    also have to ensure that the very best
    treatment services are available within
    prison. But if you are going to provide
    drug treatment in prison you have to be
    clear about the aims of that treatment.
    For years methadone was largely
    unavailable within Scottish prisons
    because the focus of those prisons was
    on detoxing prisoners rather than
    stabilising them. The prison service,
    however, was criticised for the
    substantial number of addicts who
    overdosed when they left prison and
    resumed their drug habit. Under the
    pressure of that criticism, the prison
    service has come to focus more on
    stabilising addicts than detoxing them,
    and in that context methadone had
    come to be much more widely used.
    However, stabilising addicts is not going
    to reduce the scale of the prison population
    with a drug problem, and if you
    don’t do that you run the real risk of
    watching the numbers of addicts in
    prison steadily rising to the point where
    prison itself becomes the place where
    you temporarily house your addict
    population.
    There is another solution which is no
    less controversial – you stop sending your
    addicts to jail in the first place. This is an
    understandable response when you
    consider that much of the crime that
    addicts commit is to fund their drug habit.
    The trouble with this solution though is
    the fact that it leads you down the road of
    operating a parallel criminal justice
    system with individuals who commit their
    crime to fund a drug habit being treated
    in a different way to those who commit
    their crime for financial gain.
    While this may suit the addict it
    hardly seems fair to the non-addict, and
    it actually may send out the entirely
    wrong message that you are better off
    committing your crimes to fund a drug
    habit than for any other reason. While
    we may come to accept the greater use
    of non-custodial sentences for those who
    commit their crimes to fund a drug habit,
    that acceptance will only last for as long
    as there is clear evidence that such
    sentences are indeed reducing the scale
    of addict criminality.
    In the past we used to talk about
    creating drug free areas in prison. That
    notion seems now to have been
    dropped as little more than a chimera. If
    that is the case, then the problems we
    face are even more acute than we
    realise. Tackling illegal drugs in prison
    may involve an investment in treatment
    and security well beyond what is
    currently occurring. However the
    dangers of failing in this area may be a
    prison system that starts to be
    controlled by its drug problem rather
    than controlling that problem.
    Neil McKeganey is Professor of Drug
    Misuse Research at the University of
    Glasgow.

Comments

  1. CRUNK
    Anyone else find it ironic that they're just now realizing this? It's a damn shame that drug users and sellers have to be in the same shark tank as killers, rapists, child molesters, and what not. Our prison system is wacked!
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