Prisoners use heroin to beat drug tests

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The Independent Online

Crime Correspondent

Prisoners are taking cocaine and heroin instead of cannabis in an attempt to beat drug tests at Britain's jails, it was disclosed yesterday.

George Evatt, chairman of Dartmoor Board of Visitors, said the switch was taking place because traces of cannabis can remain in the bloodstream for up to a month compared with about a day for the harder narcotics. He predicted that the change would lead to more inmates becoming drug addicts.

The switch to the highly addictive harder drugs was found at Dartmoor category B prison and confirmed by boards of visitors at other jails throughout Britain, Mr Evatt said. All 133 jails in England and Wales are expected to have introduced mandatory testing by the end of March as part of a government anti-drugs initiative.

Mr Evatt, whose board has just completed its annual report on Dartmoor prison, said: "We are finding more wraps of cocaine and heroin. It's all because of the introduction of mandatory drugs testing. Inmates know that cannabis lasts about a month in the system. It is no longer flavour of the month because it is so easily detectable.

"Who is worried about cannabis? It keeps things quiet after all and is least damaging of the drugs. You are going to get people coming into prison for the first time who end up addicted to the hard stuff when they come out."

Mr Evatt added: "We are wasting thousands of pounds in testing which is just window dressing because it can't do any good."

Trevor Horn, chairman of the Prison Officers' Association at Dartmoor, confirmed there had been a rise in heroin and cocaine seizures.

However, a Prison Service spokeswoman said that there was no evidence to show inmates were switching from soft to hard drugs to avoid detection.