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Prisons: Drugs

Volume 504: debated on Monday 18 January 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what (a) internal and (b) external audits of mandatory drug testing in prisons have been undertaken. (308738)

The most recent thematic internal audit of mandatory drug testing (MDT) was undertaken in 2009. Mandatory drug testing will be included in the NOMS audit programme which means that the extent to which each prison is complying with MDT policy will be assessed and reported once every three years.

Independent research on the effectiveness of mandatory drug testing was published by the Office for National Statistics in 2005 at:

http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs05/rdso1r0305.pdf

The performance of the MDT analytical laboratory is the subject to regular independent audit.

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what recent assessment his Department has made of the level of accuracy of mandatory drug testing statistics. (308758)

A comprehensive assessment of the accuracy of mandatory drug testing (MDT) was undertaken by the Office for National Statistics published in 2005 at:

http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs05/rdso1r0305.pdf

It concluded that the mandatory drug testing programme provides a reliable and statistically valid way of measuring patterns and trends of drug misuse in prisons. Random MDT continues to be the best overall measure of drug misuse in prisons.

In addition, MDT processes are assured by a rolling programme of internal audits and an independent quality assurance provider. The last audit concluded that comprehensive guidance was available to prisons and, by extension, did not require updating. Further, urine samples were taken correctly and chain of custody was generally well documented.

The audit also identified areas of concern, which NOMS is now working with prisons to address:

at a third of establishments sampled, there were long periods each month where no random testing was undertaken;

at one establishment the disciplinary award given for test refusals was more lenient than that for positive results; and

establishments were not sending details of refusals to the laboratory. Central records on refusals therefore did not match those held locally.

MDT roles were not always properly recorded in staff performance and development records.

Where urine samples were left with the prison gate prior to collection, a number of establishments did not require gate staff to complete a form to acknowledge receipt of samples.