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"Majority of prisoners take drugs in jail" by Rhiannon Edward, The Scotsman

30th December 2004

More than half of Scotland's prisoners have taken drugs while they were in jail, a survey said yesterday. Three-quarters also claimed mandatory drug testing had made no difference to their use.

The figures were disclosed in the annual survey of prisoners' views published by the Scottish Prison Service.

The findings were immediately seized on by the Tories, who claimed the Scottish Executive was failing to get to grips with the problem of drugs in prison.

Annabel Goldie, the Tory deputy leader, called for a "zero tolerance" stance on the issue: "It is time for this Executive to stop wallowing in its complacency, adopt a zero tolerance policy on drugs and make prisons entirely drugs-free areas," she said.

The survey suggests that four out of five prisoners had used drugs in the 12-month period before they were sent to jail. This, said the survey, is in line with statistics which show more than 75 per cent of all people entering custody are found with drugs in their system at the point of reception.

Some 55 per cent of prisoners said they had used illegal drugs in prison at some point, but most had changed their drug use during their current spell in prison - 73 per cent said they were taking less drugs, 17 per cent had increased their drugs use, and 10 per cent reported no change. Half of all prisoners had taken drugs in the month leading up to the survey, with 78 per cent of these taking cannabis and 63 per cent heroin.

Mandatory testing was introduced in Scottish prisons in 1994 to identify drug-users and offer them help. But 76 per cent said its use had not affected them, the survey said.

The report also found that 80 per cent of all prisoners smoke, while 27 per cent would support a "no-smoking" policy across Scottish prisons. Under the Executive's proposed ban on smoking in public places, smoking in prisons would be banned in all areas except in cells.

The survey also found that 94 per cent of prisoners rated their relationships with prison officers positively. Food was also rated positively, but there was criticism of the choice and the portions.

The Executive described the Tory criticism as "risible", adding: "The Scottish Prison Service, which is responsible for delivering drug testing and treatment in prison, is committed to dealing effectively with the problem."

 © The Scotsman

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