Ex-cons speak out over drug abuse in HMP Gloucester
FORMER inmates at HMP Gloucester say staff are fighting a losing battle to stop drug abuse by prisoners.
Ex-prisoners have spoken out over the wide availability of drugs – claiming heroin is easier to get inside prison walls than on the street.
It comes as new figures revealed that around 10 per cent of drug tests on inmates were positive over the past three years.
Reformed addict Craig Fellowes, now a homelessness project worker, fed his habit with a life of crime and was an inmate at Gloucester.
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The 37-year-old said inmates preferred hard drugs as it took less time to leave the body than cannabis, reducing the risk of a positive drug test.
"Drugs are a different ball game in prison with smaller deals and worse quality," he said. "It is paid for with tobacco, phone cards, snacks and sweets. Prisoners choose heroin because of the testing procedures. Heroin stays in the system for just three days on average but cannabis can still be picked up 28 days later.
"If drugs were found there would be a loss of earnings or canteen privileges.
"The prison has intelligence and security officers, but it still gets through."
Craig says he was tested on average three times during each sentence as he was a known user. Some addicts would pay the standard £10 for a wrap of heroin, only to discover they had bought a worthless bag of brick dust.
Since January 2010, 881 tests were carried out on prisoners at HMP Gloucester, with 104 of these showing signs of drug use.
One former prisoner, who served time for burglary but wished to remain anonymous, said wardens struggled to contain the drug culture.
"Wardens would turn a blind eye to a lot of the drug taking, particularly at night," he said.
"If there is a wing of 100 or so men and 15 are smoking cannabis in the dark – what can they do? We knew testing went on, but it was not much of a deterrent.
"You could buy a £10 bag of heroin for three or four bottles of shampoo.
"Although I didn't take drugs, I did try hooch. It was made out of potatoes, or bread and was lethal, like really strong vodka, and regularly available."
Mandatory drug testing in prisons started in 1996.
A prison spokesman said: "We work hard to keep contraband out of prisons.
"HMP Gloucester's drug treatment programme includes dedicated Intensive Drug Treatment Nurses working together with drug counsellors to provide quality care and support for prisoners. A four-week 'moving on' programme and a drug recovery spur has been developed at HMP Gloucester, including peer support, for those who have completed the programme."