'Legal high' use in prisons shot up 30 times in five years

Kate Solomon
A selection of
A selection of “legal highs”

The use of “legal highs” in prisons has gone up thirty times in the last five years, according to new figures.

The numbers, obtained by BBC Breakfast, show that 10 stashes of the new psychoactive substances (NPS) were found in prisons every day last year.

In 2011, 136 stashes were found in prisons in England and Wales, but in 2015 that number had risen to 4,261.

The drugs have been linked to a rise in violence in prisons, with NPS linked to at least 58 inmate deaths.

What were once known as ‘legal highs’ were subject to a blanket ban by an act of parliament earlier this year, and the supply of NPS into prisons has been made a criminal offence.

Mike Trace, of the Rehabilitation for Addicted Prisoners Trust, said, “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.”

A Prison Service spokeswoman added, “We know drugs in prisons is an issue and we are taking unprecedented action to tackle their use by offenders.

“This includes mandatory drug testing for prisoners with extra time behind bars for those caught using banned substances, tough new laws to deal with people smuggling new psychoactive substances into jails and the increased use of sniffer dogs and cell searches across the estate.

“The new testing means we can also identify the support that prisoners need to help them get off drugs, which includes improved health treatment and targeted interventions.

“These measures, alongside 2,500 extra frontline prison staff, will help make prisons safer and cut re-offending.”

Lead image: David Pearson/REX/Shutterstock