Prison turning offenders into drug addicts - Illegal drugs are so widespread in prison that more inmates are leaving with an addiction to a substance than when they initially arrived.
Overcrowding and staff shortages mean that prisoners are forced to spend an increasing amount of time confined to their cell. As a result many are turning to drugs such as heroin, cocaine and cannabis to relieve their boredom and as a source of distraction.
An investigation in February 2009 from one such prison, Craiginches in Aberdeen, revealed that 79 per cent of prisoners tested positive for drugs in random tests, however this figure falls to 67 per cent when inmates are tested on release.
The report shows that Aberdeen has the highest rate of prisoners failing drug tests when they are freed, frequently testing positive for cannabis, benzodiazepines such as Valium, heroin and other opiates, and methadone.
Drugs are so rife in prisons, it seems that people both inside and outside of prison are finding more creative ways to smuggle in drugs such as heroin.
One former inmate, who would prefer his identity to remain anonymous, told how he had heroin brought in by visitors, delivered to him through the post where it was stitched into clothes or stuck into an ‘I Love You’ card between the peeled back sheets of the card. He would often carry his heroin in his anus to avoid detection but was found positive on a number of occasions through random drug testing and an extra 14 days were added to his sentence.
He says: “Prison is like a little community. You see the same faces in and out and we all seem to get on the heroin. It’s all about the drugs.”
Since 1997, the prison population has increased by almost 25,000 people, which may in part be due to governments own addiction to imprisonment. However such claims of ‘overcrowding’ are often blamed on those with an addiction to illegal substances and the medias portrayals of a stereotypical drug user who will go to any lengths to feed their addiction and do almost anything to achieve their next ‘hit’.
It comes as no surprise then that as the number of prison inmates reached a record high that the news and media turn their attention to drug users in order to attribute a degree of blame and reasoning behind such figures.
The most recent figures released by the HM Prison Service reveal that the total number of inmates at the week ending 21st August 2009 totalled 84,139; a new record high.
What is being done?
The Prison Service has stated that they are trying to tackle the extensive availability of drugs in prison and are committed to the rehabilitation of drug using prisoners. Every prison has a ‘CARAT’ programme, which stands for counselling, assessment, referral, advice and throughcare.
This programme means that every person entering the prison service with a drug problem is assessed and allocated a ‘CARAT worker’ who coordinate their care and provide support, basic information about drugs, their effects and ways to reduce harm and aid those prisoners who want to give up or cut down on their misusing. ‘CARAT workers’ also refer a prisoner to a drug treatment rehabilitation programme and detoxification which is perhaps most valuable when a person is experiencing withdrawal symptoms.