Series 4 Factsheets
Drugs in Prison
About half of all women arriving in prison have been dependent on drugs in the previous 12 months. Some have been convicted of drug offences, but others are charged with 'fund-raising' offences - often shoplifting, credit card fraud ('kiting') or theft - committed to make the money to buy drugs.
When they arrive at the prison women with a physical dependence on drugs (such as heroin or methadone) are put on a short detoxification programme and are usually placed on a detox unit where their physical health can be monitored and they can be given information about drug treatment programmes in the prison.
In every prison a team of CARAT workers (Counselling, Assessment, Referral, Advice and Throughcare) exists to provide that range of services to any prisoner with a drug problem. After assessing prisoners they refer them on to a drug treatment programme in the prison or in the community (if the prisoner is about the be released) as appropriate.
Unfortunately the sheer numbers coming through mean that detox facilities in women's prisons are often under severe pressure, and the turnover of women coming through on remand and then being released on bail or transferred to other prisons means that some are not seen by the CARAT team either.
Many women in prison try, like Roisin, to cope with the emotional stress of being in prison by seeing the prison doctor and asking for anti-depressants or tranquilisers. The number of women in prison who have been long-term users of this kind of medication in the community is also high, but prison medical staff are understandably reluctant to prescribe this kind of drugs too freely. They have been heavily criticized in the past for doing so.
Roisin resorts to the illegal drugs market in Larkhall to try to ease her pain. There are drugs in every prison, though far less than in the past. Drugs are brought in by prisoners arriving from court, by visitors and even by people working in the prison. Increased security measures, including sniffer dogs, X-ray machines, searches and even strip searches have made it increasingly difficult to get them in, and the use of random Mandatory Drug Testing on prisoners has meant that it is more difficult to get away with using drugs. It would be impossible to completely stop all drugs entering prisons without severely damaging other aspects of prisoners' lives - measures such as holding all visits with a glass screen separating prisoners and visitors like in an American prison movie would be unacceptable because of the effect they would have on relationships which are a vital part of enabling prisoners to resettle.
For further information on the issues covered in this section, please visit The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies website.