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Drug Testing in Prisons

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

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

Letter to Lord Hylton from the Director of Operations--South, the Prison Service, Mr. Alan Walker, dated 8 February 1996:

Lady Blatch has asked me, in the absence of the Director General from the office, to reply to your recent Questions about the mandatory drug testing of prisoners.

Mandatory drug testing (MDT) began in eight pilot establishments in February 1995. A phased programme to introduce it in all remaining establishments began in September last year. Between February and November, some 4,961 screening tests were carried out under the MDT programme. The attached table shows the number of tests performed by each establishment. Five hundred and thirty-one of the screening tests were non-random (on suspicion; at reception; for risk assessment; or part of a frequent testing programme). Some laboratory returns have not discriminated between types of testing so it is not possible to provide a figure for on suspicion testing alone. Voluntary testing both pre-dates and is separate from the MDT programme, with several prisons opting to perform their own screening tests. Figures for the number of voluntary tests are not readily available and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

8 Feb 1996 : Column WA32

Although figures for the number of positive tests by establishment are not yet available, results from the eight pilot prisons showed that of those prisoners tested at random, 36 per cent. tested positive for illicit drugs. The vast majority of positive tests were for cannabis (31 per cent.) with heroin (3 per cent.) and benzodiazepines (tranquillisers) (2 per cent.) being the next most frequently misused drugs. Other drug types such as cocaine, amphetamines, LSD and barbiturates are detected, but only in a very small number of prisoners. It is too early in the programme to identify any clear trends in prisoners' drug misuse or the type of drug detected.

Between February and December 1995 there were 1,972 proven adjudications for unauthorised use of a drug, 171 for refusal to provide a sample, and 16 for adulteration of a sample. The attached tables show the number of adjudications for drug offences, and how many adjudications resulted in awards of additional days, broken down both by sex and by ethnic group. Information on the number of applications for temporary release refused because of a positive drug test is not readily available and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Mandatory drug testing samples submitted for screening by establishment February 1995-November 1995

EstablishmentStart dateSamples screened
Belmarsh06.11.9539
Bristol01.02.95443
Canterbury30.10.9534
Cookham Wood01.11.9514
Dover01.11.9526
Drake Hall21.11.954
Elmley01.09.9595
Everthorpe15.09.9570
Feltham08.02.95459
Haslar02.11.9510
Haverigg11.10.9588
Hindley07.11.9531
Holloway18.04.95314
Huntercombe27.11.9511
Kingston01.11.959
Lancaster Farms06.11.9546
Lincoln09.11.9529
Lindholme08.02.95238
Littlehey11.09.95148
New Hall07.11.9510
Northallerton02.09.9536
North Sea Camp21.11.9515
Nottingham16.11.954
Pentonville20.02.95780
Preston03.10.9565
Ranby06.11.9526
Reading03.11.9519
Risley11.09.95169
Rochester01.10.9569
Stafford06.11.9549
Stoke Heath06.02.95252
Styal05.09.9564
Sudbury01.11.9557
Swaleside01.09.95108
Thorn Cross25.10.9531
Wakefield01.03.95498
Wayland24.01.95540
Whatton21.11.9526
Wymott01.10.9535
Grand Total4,961

Punishments of unsuspended additional days 1 2 for drug offences(4) made in Prison Service establishments, by gender and ethnicity, February-December 1995

White Asian Black Chinese and other(5)
NumberAverage (days) NumberAverage (days) NumberAverage (days) NumberAverage (days)
Males and Females2,47011.5748454108012
Possession1,38513.551820773915
Selling13110034110
Unauthorised use9899.522822093813
Refusal to provide a sample76151422924
Adulterate a sample78002506
Males2,407127415450127713
Possession1,362135115207143815
Selling13110038010
Unauthorised use95111221521693717
Refusal to provide a sample741617221827
Adulterate a sample7800211011
Females63110049311
Possession23140000114
Selling----0000110
Unauthorised use3880049110
Refusal to provide a sample214000000
Adulterate a sample----000000

(2) Excludes suspended and prospective punishments. Punishments other than additional days may also have been given concurrently for the offences shown.

(3) The maximum number of additional days that a Governor could award was increased to 42 days on 25 April 1995.

(4) Includes attempting, inciting and assisting.

(5) Includes Asian other.


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TotalWhiteAsianBlackChinese and other(7)
Males and Females5,5594,349139912159
Possession3,3642,65110551791
Selling3629061
Unauthorised use1,9721,5363234460
Refusal to provide a sample1711212417
Adulterate a sample1612040
Males5,4454,249139904153
Possession3,3152,60510551590
Selling3428060
Unauthorised use1,9111,4853233856
Refusal to provide a sample1691192417
Adulterate a sample1612040
Females114100086
Possession4946021
Selling21001
Unauthorised use6151064
Refusal to provide a sample22000
Adulterate a sample00000

(6) Includes attempting, inciting and assisting.

(7) Includes Asian other.


8 Feb 1996 : Column WA34



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