Putting the screws on drugs in UK jails. (The screws are guilty)

UK taxpayers fund effective HIV prevention programmes for drug users in other countries, but not at home. Perhaps that’s because UK jails are better organised than those in, say Kyrgyzstan, so there’s not that many drugs inside? Uh, no. UK prisoners fork out around 100 million quid a year for drugs, according to the former head of drug treatment in the national offenders management system, Huseyin Djemil.

The biggest offenders in the drug market in jail appear to be the screws, the prison staff who are topping up their salaries by dealing smack to the people they are locking up. So there’s a surprise.

Listen to this fantastic radio documentary about drugs in UK jails from BBC’s Radio 4. Go ahead, listen.(Though be warned, there are things you wouldn’t want to try at home, like strapping steroids to your scrotum, and smuggling mobile phones in through the back door, as it were…)

With all those drugs floating around, prisons don’t seem a very healthy environment for impressionable young souls. And yet it seems that police, striving to meet targets for a charter-obsessed government, are funneling more and more young people into the criminal justice system, even for petty offences that would once have been dealt with informally. Into the system doesn’t necessarily mean in to jail, of course, but it’s the first step — it gives you a record that can make it more likely that you’ll get put away for a relatively minor offence later. Not a good idea, according to Dr Andrew McLellan, Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland, who complains that putting more people on short-term sentences in overcrowded jails actually makes Scotland a more dangerous place.
One bit of good news in a miserable picture: young users in the UK are less likely to be using smack or crack than their elders, by which I mean those who have hit the ripe age of 25. Of course that does mean they’re more likely than old farts of 27 to be using coke, speed and E, according to a new study fromLiverpool John Moore University.

Thanks to the always informative UK Drug Policy Centre for these tips.

This post was published on 11/04/08 in War on drugs.

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