Five died at prison affected by drugs

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The Independent Online
Staff at the only women's jail in Scotland, where five inmates killed themselves in a 15-month period, were overwhelmed by the number of prisoners with drugs problems, said a report published yesterday.

So severe was the problem that three in four of the 50-plus women in the remand block of Cornton Vale prison, near Stirling, were under observation for medical reasons or because they were considered suicidal.

Clive Fairweather, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland, said: "The conditions in this [remand] wing were not unlike a mixture between a casualty clearing station and a psychiatric ward."

The scale of the challenge posed by drugs and drug- related problems was shown by the number of medical prescriptions for the prison: 2,670 in October 1993, 3,198 in October 1994, and 5,528 in October 1995. The drugs in most common use were cannabis, Temazepam, heroin, and Temgesic. Drug-induced epileptic seizures were common among women on remand.

In his account of conditions in the remand wing Mr Fairweather said: "Many were frail and undernourished, one women I saw could hardly get up off her bed to take a puff of her fag."

He said that in the short-term more use could be made of community service orders and in the longer run more use could be made of drug addiction clinics as an alternative to prison. He noted that long-term bail hostels could be used as an alternative for low-risk prisoners on remand.

Michael Forsyth, the Secretary of State for Scotland, said he would consider the recommendations on bail hostels and psychiatric screening by courts.