Page last updated at 16:02 GMT, Monday, 22 May 2006 17:02 UK

Fighting back against drugs in prison

by Maggie Dolan
BBC News Website, Norwich

Cannabis joint
"I had more access to drugs in jail than on the street," ex-inmate says.
A groundbreaking drug rehabilitation centre for ex-offenders says many of those to whom it offers help have had access to drugs while in prison.

The Clockwise Centre in Clacton-on-Sea in Essex, named the eastern region's drug team of the year by the Home Office, is helping 725 people.

Project worker Sue Peachey said 95% of those who use the centre have drug misuse issues with many having had access to drugs in prison.

Douglas Bath, from Frinton-on Sea, who served nine years for armed robbery, said the prison service had failed him.

Mandatory test

He claims inmates were given condoms containing drugs by visiting family and friends.

Prisoners would swallow the condoms to regurgitate them later.

James Shanley
Last year we had 64 main player dealers in our prison when police arrested the Liverpool and Yarmouth drug gangs
Norwich Prison governor James Shanley

"We did this on a regular basis, a least once a fortnight," he told BBC News.

Mr Bath, who was released in 2004, served three years at Wandsworth Prison and six years at Parkhurst Prison.

"I was offered rehabilitation and educational programmes but I felt it was so belittling because I was so high on drugs at the time.

"When you are inside you want to get out of your head to forget about your sentence.

"You pay up for whatever you need. If you are short of a quick fix you pay up."

The 46-year-old, who has been drugs and alcohol-free for a year thanks to support from the centre, described the prison system as "a regime within a regime".

"The prison staff knew what was going on, but because drug barons in the prison had their own territory, they let it go," he said.

Drug use in prisons
cannabis is the drug used by the largest proportion (54%)
the second most popular drug is heroin (27%)
next most popular is the illicit use of tranquillisers (15%)
other drugs: crack (7%), cocaine (5%), ecstasy (4%) and amphetamines (2%)
daily use of cannabis drops from 59% pre-prison to 14% in prison
daily use of heroin drops from 82% pre-prison to 3% in prison.
source: Home Office

Graham, a 29-year-old who uses the centre and wishes to remain anonymous, told BBC News: "I had more access to drugs whilst I was in prison than on the streets. You just had to pay more for them.

"They (the prison service) knew I had a drugs problem before I went in and they knew that I was doing drugs on the inside and I was not offered any rehabilitation.

"The centre helped me realise there is a different life to drugs," he said.

He served seven months at Chelmsford Prison in Essex for attempted robbery back in the1990s.

Now at prisons across the region there is a huge push to help prisoners with drug problems.

The Home Office operates mandatory drug testing once a month randomly testing 5% of inmates.

At Norwich Prison in Norfolk in April this year, 17% of the 5% tested positive.

Control supply

Norwich Prison governor James Shanley told BBC News that 1,500 new inmates voluntarily joined a prison detoxification programme last year and there is a rehabilitation unit which offers a "secure and discreet" environment.

As well as a treatment programme, one way to reduce the use of illicit drugs by offenders is to control supplies in prison.

In the last year the prison authorities at Norwich stopped drugs worth up to 140,000 reaching inmates inside.

The seizures have been made by police and prison officers who have formed a new Drugs Intelligence Unit.

Hidden drug packages have been found in the soles of shoes, in the spines of books and concealed in hollowed out oranges.

Drugs dogs search just inside the perimeter fence - on the other side is a road from where people will routinely throw drugs into the jail.

Mr Shanley said the fight to stem drug use in prison was constant challenge: "If we look at last year we had 64 main player dealers in our prison when police arrested the Liverpool and the Great Yarmouth drug gangs.

"The war on drugs is one of those things that can be successful but because it is a local prison serving 18,000 movements a year there will always be periods when it is not successful and then we re-establish ourselves and look at our intelligence," he said.

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