Tuesday, August 01, 2006
I am not in the least bit surprised to read of suspicions that many prison staff, including officers and non-uniformed staff, corruptly take drugs and other contraband into their establishments. Quite apart from the chance of a profit, many officers see drugs as a way of keeping inmates in a compliant drug-soaked haze.
It is a truism that drugs are prison currency, to the extent that newly incarcerated prisoners have the option of asking to go on a drug-free wing in many establishments. Anyone who has visited a prison, as all magistrates must, can see that the opportunity to smuggle in any real quantity of contraband is small. I have taken part in a drug dog demonstration at one establishment where Fido picked out the magistrate who was carrying in about half a minute. (The stuff had been planted by agreement, of course).
The real problem, that we have all been aware of for years, is that the authorities have been terrified of upsetting the Prison Officers'Association, one of the last of the old-style unreconstructed militant unions. I don't know how things are at the moment, but a few years ago at Wormwood Scrubs a number of officers were investigated following allegations of violence against inmates, and it was a close call whether the others all walked off the job in protest.
If the will existed all closed prisons could be virtually drug-free. That they are not is a failure of political and managerial nerve.
The popularity of cocaine and heroin is partly due to the fact that they clear the body relatively quickly, while cannabis traces remain for many days or weeks. With urine tests held at the same time each week, it is safer to use the hard stuff and just lay off for a day or two before test day. There are also suspicions that the tests are not all that random, as some 'clean' prisoners are tested time and again to make the prison's figures look good.