Inmates at a British prison can buy the drug Spice for around half of the price of tobacco, a Government report has found.
At HMP Erlestoke near the Wiltshire town of Devizes, it said that combined with a smoking ban, the drug had helped fuel a sense of “hopelessness” among inmates.
Published by the HM Inspectorate of Prisons, the report said that there “clear evidence” of the widespread use of Spice, along with other drugs and alcohol.
It followed an inspection of the prison, which accommodates around 500 men, in June and July.
Spice is not a single drug but a range of synthetic chemicals that imitate the effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the main psychoactive component of cannabis.
It is often more potent than marijuana and has been dubbed the “zombie drug” because of its devastating impact on users.
In HMP Erlestoke “prisoners also told us that the price of Spice was around half of that for illicit tobacco, which encouraged more Spice use than we have seen in similar prisons recently,” the report states.
Inmates reported “frequent medical emergencies, some very serious” as a result of use of the drug.
This was partly because prisoners were smoking the synthetic cannabis substitute without diluting it with tobacco.
“Many prisoners we spoke to said that the availability of drugs, coupled with the recent smoking ban, had contributed to a widespread sense of hopelessness," the report states.
Prisoners added it was “difficult to maintain recovery in an atmosphere where so many other prisoners were regularly under the influence of Spice.”
Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke said: “Safety in the prison was not good enough. Much of the violence and bullying that did exist was, in our view, linked to a significant drug problem, and yet the prison lacked an effective drug strategy.”
Following the report's publication, Michael Spurr, of the HM Prison and Probation Service, said: “The governor is working with partners including the police, and treatment agencies, to address this issue as a priority.”
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