Scare Forces Prison Chiefs To Declare An Amnesty

An Ulster jail has been rocked by a lethal drug alert, forcing prison chiefs to introduce an immediate drugs amnesty, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal today.

Urgent warnings were issued to all inmates at Maghaberry prison amid serious concern that a bad batch of drugs was circulating among prisoners.

In a bid to prevent any dangerous health hazards – or fatalities – a 48-hour drugs amnesty was immediately introduced by prison management.

A memo, which has been obtained by the Belfast Telegraph, was circulated to prisoners last Tuesday.

The memo stated that prison authorities “are of the opinion that a bad batch of drugs is being used by prisoners within Maghaberry at present time and are concerned in relation to the severe consequences that may potentially occur from this usage”.

It added: “Any prisoners engaging in this activity are urged to stop and consider the outcome of their actions.

“To help in this instance, the governor has granted an amnesty for a period of 48 hours, effective immediately. During this time, prisoners may hand over any drugs to members of staff without fear of disciplinary action.”

However, the Northern Ireland Prison Service has confirmed no drugs were handed over. A spokesman said the amnesty was introduced by management at Maghaberry on July 10 in response to six prisoners “suffering an adverse reaction during the previous five days”.

He added: “The decision was taken in the interest of prisoner safety. During the amnesty period normal procedures to reduce the supply of drugs entering the prison continued.”

It is understood that, while none of the six prisoners required hospital treatment, three were kept under observation.

The discovery of the contaminated batch of drugs – which a source within the prison said was Ecstasy – comes shortly after concern was raised over the use of illegal substances in Northern Ireland’s jails. Recently it was revealed in Parliament that Ulster’s prisoners failed voluntary drugs test almost 2,000 times in just two years.

This paper also revealed recently that cannabis, heroin, Ecstasy and Viagra worth thousands of pounds was seized from the province’s jails in three years. The most popular drug for inmates is cannabis, with almost 2kg of the drug – with a street value of around £10,000 – found in Maghaberry, Magilligan and Hydebank prisons from January 2004.

On numerous occasions, visitors were caught trying to smuggle in drugs.

One woman on a visit to Hydebank had concealed 10 temazepam tablets, three LSD tablets and a quantity of cannabis inside a baby’s nappy.