Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Top four ways to smuggle drugs into prison

1. In your backside. Prison trousers are specially designed to be strong and small to try and prevent people discreetly slipping drugs into…and through their pocket at visiting time.

2. In a birthday card.
Cut horizontally through a thick birthday card and lay your drugs as flat as possible inside the card before resealing the corner.

3. Swallowed – enough said.

4. In your shoe. Cut out a square inside your trainers before placing your packet inside and gluing it down again. Wear insoles for extra cover.

When someone is desperate and determined enough to get their heroine, cocaine or cannabis into prison it’s almost impossible to stop them. You can search prisoners, but you can’t check every piece of mail and you certainly can’t search every visitor. Even if the prison service had more resources it wouldn’t be worth spending them on tightening regimes to try and cut out drugs in prison completely.

Any resources would be far better spent on helping prisoners who want to ‘do their rattle’ and come off heroine whilst they are inside. Prison is lonely and can be a time of reflection. In the space that prison can provide we should be offering more people courses to help them understand when and why they use in preparation for when they get out.

Many prisoners come out with good intentions which are very quickly dashed, because either they:
- Don’t know how to cope with the uncertainties of freedom and so turn back to the only way they do know to regulate their fears.
- Have nowhere to live on leaving prison - the problems mount up and using is the obvious escape.

Prison is necessary to protect the public from a relatively small number of individuals who are a danger to the public. But for many a ‘short, sharp, shock’ simply disrupts any progress that is being made on the outside and leaves prisoners back at square one when they get out: without a secure or any home, in a cycle of drug use, theft and user-on-user violence.

Things are improving slowly. For instance, there is greater communication between the probation and prison service than there used to be and there is some preparation for outside life when you’re inside, but there is still a long, long way to go. There is frequent worried headshaking in the media that drugs are readily available in prison. They’d do better to be concerned that the help and preparation needed for successful living in mainstream society is not.


  1. What about method number 5: find a corrupt prison officer?

    I found this very interesting because I've never been able to understand how enough drugs get into prisons to support the habits of such a large proportion of prisoners. The other question I have is how they can possibly afford them when they are not able to commit crime anymore?

    I'm horrified that we release people that still have a drugs habit. Shouldn't we have mandatory drug testing and not release prisoners until they have been off for a fixed period of time? And follow that up with regular testing and re-imprisonment, perhaps forever? I also wonder about performance related pay for prison staff related to drug use?

    The thing that annoys me about the whole drug debate is that I just don't think there is actually any determination to solve the problem. The only thing that annoys me more is middle-class drug users getting off scot free. I'd really like to introduce mandatory drug-testing of politicians, tv presenters and musicians. Damnit, I'm getting so totally right-wing in my old-age.

  2. I'm sure there are corrupt prison officers, but I have no idea how serious a problem this is. I guess that 'turning a blind eye' because it would be more trouble than it's worth taking drugs off people would be more common.

    Good question about how they can afford them in prison. No idea. I'll try and find out.

    There's no point getting prisoners off drugs in jail if there's not the support outside. There is some regular testing linked to reimprisonment when someone comes out and this helps some people, but many people still slip back into using if their underlying problems aren't resolved whatever the 'sticks'.

    I think that this government have been somewhat more determined than previous governments. They've put a fair amount of cash into deals with drugs problems and introduced innovative schemes like DTTOs. Drugs Testing and Treatment Orders are an alternative to prison which sets up regular testing and courses which helps people to understand what makes them use and when, raises self esteem and encourages responsible decision making. DTTOs have been a major step forward, but the whole system of prison and the raft of supporting agencies on the outside just doesn't work effectively for the amount of resources it is given to deal with a relatively small number of people.