Prison watchdogs at Rutland’s HMP Stocken are calling for urgent action to be taken to combat the increasing use of ‘legal highs’ among prisoners.
In its annual report, HMP Stocken’s Independent Monitoring Board is calling for Prisons’ Minister Andrew Selous to take immediate steps to address the escalating problem that can present a danger to inmates and staff alike.
IMB chairman Mike Siswick said that while Stocken, near Stretton, was well run by staff who work hard to care for prisoners effectively and safely, the problem of Novel Psychoactive Substances, known as NPS was growing.
He said: “Radical action has to be taken to combat the increasing use of NPS at HMP Stocken.
“Stocken, like many other prisons in the UK, is increasingly afflicted by the new scourge of NPS. These substances, still largely undetectable, create significant and serious behavioural problems affecting security and control.
“Legislation, though difficult, is urgently needed to reduce external availability of these so called legal highs which are obtainable in nearby towns and on line.
“Access to these substances generates debt, bullying and intimidation, together conspiring to diminish the otherwise good levels of safety and security established within the prison by sound and caring management.”
Just a few weeks ago staff at Stocken found a haul of NPS with a value of £29,000 which a prisoner, transferring from another prison, had attempted to smuggle in. It was found contained in a set of speakers.
Mr Siswick added: “Full credit must be given to the team who discovered the haul. They became suspicious over the weight of a speaker and, on further inspection found the drugs.
“As in the outside world the authorities only detect a certain amount of drugs and inevitably some will always get through.”
Mr Siswick said that until recently drug availability was a limited concern within Stocken, which is a Category C training prison. It currently holds about 840 prisoners who are serving between four years and life terms.
Mr Siswick added: “What was a limited concern has now changed, primarily because of outside availability and the difficulty of detection and behavioural problems directly attributable to these substances have increased markedly.”
He believes that among the measures that need to be taken to counter the increase in NPS use is more testing equipment.
“Clearly there is a considerable cost to this but it is one which must be worth bearing. Failure by the Ministry of Justice to take urgent measures could have very serious implications for the safety of staff and prisoners.”
As well as the issues of NPS, the board also highlighted concerns over the adequacy of staffing.
In June, a major incident involving about 60 prisoners broke out at Stocken. During the incident, prisoners took over one of the wings for several hours leading to injury and one wing being seriously damaged. It is still out of action.
“None of us want to see any recurrence of a similar incident to that. The governing governor and his management team do an excellent job. They can, however only do so much as scarce resources allow,” said Mr Siswick.
To find out more on HMP Stocken IMB visit www.justice.gov.uk/about/imb.