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Prisons: Drugs

Question for Ministry of Justice

UIN 14962, tabled on 11 February 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of trends in the level of drug finds in prisons between 2008 and 2018.

Answered on

24 February 2020

The number of drug finds in prisons across England and Wales between 2008 and 2018 can be found in the HMPPS Annual Digest 2018/19:

2008

4,654

2009

4,392

2010

3,537

2011

3,353

2012

4,143

2013

4,292

2014

5,617

2015

8,757

2016

10,611

2017

12,077

2018

17,283

Drug finds in prisons continue to rise, and in the 12 months to March 2019, there were 18,435 incidents; an increase of 41% over the previous 12-month period.

The increase in drug finds since 2015 is partly due to the increase in finds of psychoactive substances. HM Prison and Probation Service has also put in place a number of security counter-measures over this period, allowing it to seize more items of contraband than ever before. These included:

  • In 2017 - intelligence units to help identify, understand and disrupt security threats at prisons;
  • In 2018 – Serious and Organised Crime Unit, Financial Investigations Unit, technology to obtain data from mobile phones seized in prisons, dedicated search teams, X-ray body scanners for 20 prisons including the establishments in the Ten Prisons Project who also received bag scanners and metal detectors and dedicated search teams; and
  • In 2019 - our new Counter-Corruption Unit.

We are now investing a further £100m in prison security to stop contraband such as drugs from entering prisons. This includes more X-ray baggage scanners to enhance searching of visitors and staff and more X-ray body scanners to detect prisoners concealing contraband inside their bodies.

This is part of our £2.75 billion investment to make prisons safer for offenders and staff, while working closely with healthcare providers to ensure prisoners have the support they need to live drug-free. We therefore also published in April 2019 The National Prison Drug Strategy which has three strands: restricting supply, reducing demand and ensuring prisoners are encouraged to engage in meaningful activity and treatment interventions.

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