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Thursday, 8 August, 2002, 08:02 GMT 09:02 UK
Prison faces poor drugs record
News graphic, prison drugs problem
Figures show Cardiff Prison with the biggest problems
Cardiff and Swansea prisons have been highlighted as having poor records of dealing with drug abuse and providing decent recreation facilities.

Cardiff appears in the top 10 of the Prison Reform Trust's table on problems of drug misuse, with more than 20% of inmates reported to have failed random tests.

Sir David Ramsbotham
Sir David Ramsbotham set prisons targets
The figure was down on 2000-2001, when a quarter of inmates were found to be failing the testing procedure and the drop may reflect greater efforts to prevent drugs entering Cardiff Prison.

Swansea scored highly on discipline, though, with very few reports of assaults on prison staff.

Usk Prison was found to be the best performing centre, while the privately-run Parc Prison at Bridgend showed up well on inmate activity levels and on efforts to control drug problems.

The report coincides with the Prison Service's warning to the UK Government that prisons are overcrowded.

For some drug use in prison follows peer pressure

Linda Quinn, drugs misuse consultant

The reform trust's latest figures show that drug abuse at Cardiff Prison is almost double the UK average of 11.6%, while the level of purposeful activity is four hours under the target of 24 hours per week.

Cardiff's prison 500-strong population is largely young and local, with many inmates on remand.

But the low levels of assaults at Cardiff - 6.4% compared with a UK average of 9% - will give prison chiefs some relief.

Exemplary record

Swansea Prison also has work to do to meet UK targets for tackling drug abuse, with 16.1%, and activity hours - 22 - but it was one of the best establishments for discipline with an assault rate of just 1.9%.

Usk's record over the past 12 months has been exemplary, says the trust, with an assault rate of just 0.3%, almost double the UK's prisoner activity levels (37.9 hours) and a drug abuse rate of 3.6%.

Parc Prison's statistics matched the Prison Service's targets, with assault rates and drug misuse levels within levels sought and an above average number of hours spent on purposeful activities.

Linda Quinn, a drugs misuse consultant working at Cardiff Prison, said tackling the drugs issue in south Wales was difficult.

"For some drug use in prison follows peer pressure. They are pressurised to confirm and there is the opportunity.

"More money has been directed in the past five years for providing education and help to address their drug use.

"Prisoners in Cardiff and Swansea are spending relatively short times there and it is also proven to be difficult to police drugs coming into a prison.

"With lots of people coming in and out warders have a hard task. Prison gives prisoners an opportunity to come to terms with their drug use and find ways to tackle it."

Mark Leach, a former prisoner and the director of the Institute for Prison Law, said the issue of positive activities in prison was underestimated.

"I know of one prison where inmates were doing nothing more than folding bin liners and putting stickers on them.

"How prisons often interpret purposeful activities can be wide of the mark."

Linda Quinn, drugs counsellor
"Prisoners often face peer pressure to take drugs"
BBC Wales' Gail Foley
"Helping prisoners off drugs is one of the Prison Service's key targets"

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