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Volume 124: debated on Monday 14 December 1987

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on any assessments made as to the extent of the availability of illegal drugs in Her Majesty's prisons, and the action taken to prevent their importation and use.

The following information relates to prison department establishments in England and Wales. Responsibility for establishments in Scotland and Northern Ireland rests with my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Northern Ireland.The best evidence available by which to assess the scale and nature of the smuggling, trafficking and misuse of drugs in establishments is the number of finds of substances or implements. In 1986, there were some 2,300 reports of such finds, the great majority of which were of cannabis or of implements for smoking cannabis. In the first 10 months of this year, 1,126 reports were received, of which the great majority again concerned finds of cannabis and related implements.Measures to prevent and detect illicit drugs are kept continuously under review. Regular and special searches are conducted, including the use of dogs specially trained in drug detection work. The number of trained dogs has been increased. Dogs have been trained to detect heroin and cocaine as well as cannabis. The police investigate cases where there is reason to believe that a visitor intends to smuggle drugs into an establishment. Staff training on drugs has been improved. A new training package aimed specifically at the problems and needs of the prison service was issued to all establishments in 1985. In September 1987 further guidance and instructions were issued to all establishments, a major theme of which was the prevention of smuggling by visitors and by inmates returning from home leave. The abolition of the privilege whereby unconvicted prisoners can have food and drink sent in for them will remove a significant avenue into certain prisons for drugs.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on current advice and treatment provided for prisoners either charged with offences relating to drugs or found to be dependent on narcotics.

The possibility of a history of drugs misuse is one of the factors medical officers inquire into during the course of their examination of inmates being received into prison custody. Where indicated medical help in withdrawing is offered, its nature and extent are determined by the medical officer's clinical assessment of the individual case. Additionally at a number of establishments personal support continuing after withdrawal is provided by members of staff or drug counselling agencies from the community.Guidelines prepared in discussion between the prison department and probation service for the introduction at all establishments of a more co-ordinated response to drug misusers were issued on 25 September. These describe the responsibility of the governor to ensure the development of a coherent system and the complementary roles of medical and probation officers in the provision of care and support. The use of suitable drug counselling agencies from the community is encouraged. The particular advice offered an inmate prior to discharge will depend upon individual circumstances but progressively as the system is introduced will include the issue of a brief advisory card with which all establishments have been supplied. I am arranging for a copy of the guidelines and card to be placed in the Library.