Staff at a Yorkshire jail are photocopying letters before handing them to inmates, in case they are soaked in drugs.
A report by the Independent Monitoring Board revealed that prisoners and staff at HMP Wealstun, a Category C prison which holds around 800 men, have been hospitalised due to increased levels of violence caused by psychoactive substances, including Spice.
Staff at the jail, near Wetherby, are dealing with drug-related issues up to 10 times a day and there has been an increase in the number of drug searches. One of the ways inmates are accessing Spice is by getting contacts on the outside to soak paper in the substance and send it to them under the guise of confidential legal letters.
‘Bogus Legal Mail is a Significant Problem’
During several visits to Wealstun between June 2016 and May 2017, inspectors found fake legal letters to inmates to be a “significant problem”.
The report revealed that letters are being sprayed with the former legal high, Spice, which
is absorbed by paper that inmates then smoke as joints.
According to prison rules, staff are only allowed to open inmates’ letters if they have reason to believe that they contain contraband.
“Where there is suspicion that incoming letters have been soaked in drugs, they are photocopied,” says the report. “This has resulted in an increase in complaints from prisoners, as bogus legal mail is a significant problem and legal mail should not be opened.”
A “considerable” increase in assaults at the prison was linked to increased drug use, coupled with “the frustration prisoners feel when regimes are curtailed due to lack of staff”.
More CCTV and Drug Searches
In a statement, the Prison Service said it took a “zero-tolerance approach” to drugs and anyone found with contraband would be subject to disciplinary action and police investigations.
“While there remains progress to be made, HMP Wealstun has already taken action to improve security and remains proactive in its tackling of drugs and other contraband,” the statement continued.
“The prison has also increased the number of intelligence-led drug searches and has secured funding for high-definition CCTV across the site.”
Spice ‘Very Affordable’ for Prisoners
Public Health England recently warned that double the number of people coming out of prison test positive for Spice than are going in.
Public Health England’s Dr George Ryan said the drug was “very affordable” for prisoners.
“Currently it is the adult male prisons which face major problems due to Spice,” he added.
“It tends to be more potent than high potency cannabis.
“You have the toxic combination of wide effects, high, variable and unpredictable potency. In a closed environment like a prison, it’s particularly challenging.”