HC Deb 24 March 1994 vol 240 cc349-50W
Mr. Burns

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how many incidents of drug abuse were discovered in Chelmsford prison in each year since 1990; and if he will make a statement;

(2) if he will list the different types of drugs that have been found in Chelmsford prison in each year since 1990;

(3) how many visitors to Chelmsford prison have been found to be in possession of illegal drugs while visiting Chelmsford prison each year since 1990; and what subsequent action was taken against them;

(4) how often cells and other parts of Chelmsford prison are searched for drugs by staff and sniffer dogs; and if he will make a statement;

(5) what action is being taken to seek to reduce the incidence of drug abuse within Chelmsford prison; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Peter Lloyd

Responsibility for these matters has been delegated to the Director General of the Prison Service, who has been asked to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter from Derek Lewis to Mr. Simon Burns, dated 24 March 1994. The Home Secretary has asked me to reply to your five recent Questions about drugs at Chelmsford prison. The number of unauthorised drug finds at Chelmsford, including materials used in connection with such drugs in each of the years since 1990 was 64, 61, 68, 66 respectively. So far this year there have been seven finds. Details of the type of drugs found at Chelmsford were not recorded before 1991. Since then 156 finds have involved cannabis, five of cocaine, five of heroin and one each of mescaline, opium, LSD and amphetamine. There were seven finds in which the drugs were either unprescribed medication or discovered in the visits area and not tested. Records of visitors to Chelmsford found in possession of controlled drugs were not kept before 1993. Since then 14 visitors were arrested by the Police and one was warned by staff. Details of the action subsequently taken by the police or courts are not readily available. An average of 130 cells containing approximately 190 inmates, and all other areas such as workshops, are routinely searched every month. In addition special searches are carried out when it is suspected that a prisoner may be in possession of drugs. Searches using dogs were carried out in 1990, 1991 and 1993. An x-ray machine was installed in 1993 to examine visitors baggage. The Police are called if anyone is found attempting to bring drugs into the prison. It is open to the Governor to then require that visits to the prisoner concerned will be restricted and allowed only under closely supervised conditions. He may also exclude such visitors from visiting the prison. Any inmate with a drug addiction problem is offered a seven day detoxification programme and counselling by trained Health Care Staff, on being received at the prison. Counsellors from the National Children's Society run a "Drugwatch" group three times a week for an average of six inmates and appropriate treatment is offered by the Medical Officer. Reducing drug misuse is one of the Prison Service's top priorities. We shall reduce the opportunities for prisoners to obtain drugs by improving detection. The use of x-ray machines has already helped and greater use of, information has enabled resources to be targeted on potential offenders. The new clause being introduced in the Criminal Justice Bill will allow prisoners to be tested for drugs. We also aim to reduce the demand for drugs in prisons. Our new Drug Strategy will provide improved support and treatment for those misusing drugs, including drug support units to help prisoners who wish to break the habit.