Series 4 Factsheets
Mandatory Drug Testing
Roisin has been caught out by a mandatory drug test and is suffering as a result. Drug testing was introduced into prisons to try to reduce the use of drugs by making it more likely that drug use would be detected. Most prisons which receive prisoners from court require them to provide a urine sample when they arrive. This is tested for drugs and the results are used to help identify drug users.
After arrival prisoners can be tested on a random basis. About 10% of the population of each prison is tested every month. Names of most of those to be tested are randomly selected centrally (not at the prison). Prisoners can also be tested if there are suspicions that they are using drugs.
The MDT a urine test and will detect opiates, cocaine, benzodiazepines and amphetamines in the urine for a few days and cannabis for up to 28 days. A prisoner who has a positive mandatory drug test will have an adjudication which is like a trial. If found guilty the punishment may be that the prisoner has to serve additional days in prison, or is confined to their cell, loses earnings or privileges. Prisoners who have a positive drug test may be moved down the earned privileges scale, so they may lose 'Enhanced' status or move from 'Standard' to 'Basic'.
Prisoners are still allowed visits if they have a positive MDT - visits are not a privilege. If the visitor is suspected of bringing in drugs visits may be 'closed' - held in special room or cubicle with glass separating prisoner and visitor. If the drugs are known to have been supplied by a visitor then that person can be banned from visiting.
If a prisoner has tested positive their change in level on the Incentives and Earned Privileges Scheme could affect the length of the visit. If they are on 'Basic' they may only be allowed a half hour visit. Not surprisingly many families are reluctant to make the journey for a short visit and the idea of visiting in a 'closed' visit cubicle may not be acceptable, particularly if there are children involved.
Some prisons have Voluntary Testing Units where prisoners can choose to live after signing a 'Compact'. This is an agreement that they will not use drugs and will agree to be tested on a voluntary basis. In exchange they usually enjoy better living conditions. Prisoners on Voluntary Testing Units are ex-drug users who have been through a prison treatment programme and want to live in a drug-free environment. Others are non-drug users who don't want to pressures of living among prisoners who may be using and dealing in drugs.
For further information on the issues covered in this section, please visit The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies website.