Prison seizures of ‘legal highs’ increased by 30 times in five years

NPS in Prisons

New Government figures revealed today by BBC Breakfast reveal that seizures of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS, such as Spice) in prison have risen by over 30 times in five years (from 136 in 2011 to 4,261 in 2016)

 RAPt, works in 21 prisons across the country and is tackling the impact of the drug daily in its front line work.  RAPt recorded a seven fold increase in reports of NPS use last year. Staff, based in prisons across the country, recorded 87 prisoners as using NPS in April-September 2014, compared to 622 in the same period in 2015. RAPt’s serious incident reporting process also showed significant levels of violence and health problems as a result of NPS.  In a three month period (April to June 2015) across nine prisons RAPt frontline staff reported 54 serious incidents that related to NPS.

 Mike Trace, RAPt CEO, said: “Prisons are struggling with unprecedented levels of drug use and violence. More than half of new arrivals in prison are there for drug related crime and most seek to continue using drugs in prison.  If a way isn’t found to turn prisoners away from the dealer and towards treatment, the drug market will continue to thrive and routes found to bring drugs in to prisons.  The violence, disorder and health emergencies in prison arise from a drug market driven by the high profits being made to feed a high demand.  The Government must do more than just tackle the supply, and must prioritise effective drug treatment to tackle the demand.”

Former RAPt client James, 42 from Hull, was interviewed by BBC Breakfast about the findings.  James had been in and out of prison since he was 16 years old. When he left prison in January 2016 James went straight to RAPt’s intensive residential rehabilation centre, The Bridges.

James said: “On my last two sentences I saw that the prison was flooded with Spice. People were doing serious things to get hold of the drug. I think it’s the perfect prison drug because it’s easy to smuggle in compressed, it’s hard to detect and difficult to test for.

 “There is a lot of money in it, because it’s cheap to buy on the outside and easy to get hold of. I saw people running around daily trying to get hold of it. It’s easy to make money in prisons from it, in prison everything costs a lot more. It’s a very dangerous drug because we don’t know the effects and in my experience it affects people differently. My personal experience was that it made me panicked and paranoid and I lost control, I lost consciousness.

“The main reason people use drugs is it’s a way of handling the sentences, to pass the time when there is no education, no rehabilitation.”

 Independent research shows that RAPt’s intensive rehabilitation treatment programme leads to a 20% reduction in the numbers of released prisoners re-offending, and a 65% reduction in overall number of offences

RAPt believe the best prison addiction treatment should be delivered on a ‘recovery wing’. These wings allow prisoners to commit to staying away from drugs in an environment where there is a culture of recovery, sustained by RAPt staff and fellow prisoners. RAPt currently runs seven ‘recovery wings’ in prisons, where the charity sees a significant reduction in violence against staff and fellow inmates.

Despite the growing scale of the drug problem in prison, only 600 prisoners per year get access to RAPt’s most successful programmes, less than half of the number just four years ago. This represents less than 2% of the number of prisoners who could use their time in custody to get treatment and recovery – a huge missed opportunity. Yet for every 100 people completing this programme an estimated £6.3million is saved on reduced crime and re-sentencing.  Making the programme available to just 10% of drug dependent prisoners would equate to potential savings of £440million a year.

Read the full press release here

Read our NPS briefing here