Boxers and socks soaked in 'psychoactive substances' mailed to prison for inmates to smoke - causing some to collapse

A prisoner found dead in his cell could have bought socks mailed to inmates 'soaked in drugs', an inquest into his death has found.

Jamie Tate, who was found dead in his cell at Strangeways on March 14, 2021, was said to have suffered from seizures and psychosis, and had a history of substance misuse.

In a report following an inquest into hi`s death it was revealed that socks, clothes and boxer shorts 'impregnated' with highly toxic drugs were sent into Strangeways for inmates to smoke, Manchester Evening News reports.

The items were said to have been dipped in 'psychoactive substances' or fentanyl on the outside then, once inside, ripped up into pieces and sold on to inmates. An officer gave Mr Tate socks and boxer shorts 'received through the post' on the day he died, it was found.

A coroner concluded the medical cause of Tate's death couldn't be ascertained, but said there was a 'possibility' that illicit substances or an 'unwanted side effect of medication' were contributory factors.

It's claimed that a number of prisoners had collapsed on one occasion, reveals the report by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, which investigates deaths in custody.

Prison chiefs have been told by the ombudsman that 'more needs to be done to reduce both the supply of, and demand for, psychoactive substances', which include spice and other chemicals.

It's understood that the prison is due to publish a new strategy to tackle the problem.

Ombudsman Sue McAllister, who compiled the report after investigators spoke to prisoners and staff following Mr Tate's death, said she was concerned that he 'appears to have been able to access illicit drugs with apparent ease' at HMP Manchester.

One prisoner, known as 'Mr B' in the report, told investigators Mr Tate 'would take whatever psychoactive substances he could get' and paid off debts by handing over purchases he made from the prison's tuck shop. The inmate told a prison officer after the tragedy that Mr Tate got his drugs 'in a parcel of socks' from another inmate - named only as 'Mr A'.

"Intelligence suggested that prisoners on I Wing were having clothes sent into them by friends and family that had been soaked in PS, and then smoking the ripped-up fabric," says the report. "Mr B told the investigator that Mr A had told him that he had asked his mother to dissolve 50mg fentanyl - an opiate painkiller - tablets in water and soak some socks in them and send them to him.

"Mr B said that Mr A had done this a few months previously with 30mg fentanyl tablets and had distributed it on the wing and it had led to prisoners collapsing. Mr B said that Mr A continued to sell pieces of these socks."

The report reveals that 'intelligence' noted an officer gave Mr Tate socks and boxer shorts 'received through the post' on the day he died. But it added: "These items had been searched and X-rayed and checked by search dogs. No concerns were noted about the contents.

"Another intelligence report noted that on March 15, Mr B handed a note to an officer, which said that Mr Tate had got psychoactive substances from Mr A, who had had a parcel of socks delivered to him that afternoon which were all impregnated with psychoactive substances.

"Staff searched Mr A’s cell and an officer found a pair of socks which had some material cut from them. He seized them and they tested positive for opiates. Police seized the socks as evidence, but they were not tested further

"When asked about the socks, Mr A told the investigator that he had bought the socks from another prisoner as he was told that they had psychoactive substances on them. He denied supplying them to Mr Tate but said that the person he bought them from supplied them to Mr Tate. He was not willing to name the prisoner.

"He said he tried to buy more socks soaked in drugs after he had them confiscated but the other prisoner was unwilling to supply him with any after Mr Tate had died."

Tate was found under the influence of drugs twice by staff in the January before he died.

Police seized a homemade pipe and 'burnt remnants of a substance' in Mr Tate's cell after his death. The now-published report into the tragedy reveals staff found him lying unresponsive with a vape under his face. CPR was commenced and paramedics called, but he was confirmed to have died.

Mr Tate, who was 33, was sentenced to 11 years in prison in November 2014 for aggravated burglary, assault and false imprisonment and was transferred to HMP Manchester in 2019. He was later sentenced to another four and a half years imprisonment for offences he committed in prison.

"Intelligence reports submitted after Mr Tate had died indicated that he may have been supplied with socks soaked in psychoactive substances or fentanyl - an opiate painkiller," said ombudsman Ms McAllister.

"Post-mortem examinations were unable to ascertain the cause of Mr Tate’s death, although a seizure, medication or illicit drugs were possible causes."

Ms McAllister said after an investigation that mental health and substance misuse services at the prison 'did not always work together effectively' - a criticism she said had been waged at HMP Manchester before. Tate, she said, had missed two psychiatric appointments two months before he died 'without any explanation noted on his medical record'.

"We are also concerned that communication between the teams responsible for Mr Tate’s mental health and substance misuse care was inadequate," added Ms McAllister in the report. "Although no psychoactive substances were detected in Mr Tate’s system after he died, it remains possible that they may have impacted on his death, given the intelligence from prisoners, his history of drug misuse and the vape found under his face when he was discovered unresponsive."

A Prison Service spokesperson said: "Our thoughts remain with the family and friends of Jamie Tate. HMP Manchester has accepted the recommendations made by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman and uses a range of measures – including its X-Ray scanner – to detect and stop drugs from entering the prison."

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