Nearly One In 10 Welsh Prisoners Test Positive For Drugs

NEARLY one in 10 Welsh prisoners has tested positive for drugs in random tests, according to figures released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Officers carried out 6,043 tests in the four Welsh prisons in 2006-07, with 574 – 9.4% – testing positive.

The number of prison drugs offences reported to police is up 30% in the past three years, but the conviction rate is down.

Shadow Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan, who obtained the figures, said: “Prisons should be drug-free environments, yet evidence proves that hundreds of prisoners in Wales have access to drugs while behind bars.

“It is simply unacceptable that in places where the authority of law should be absolute prisons are still being infiltrated with illegal drugs.

“The figures we have obtained highlight the scale of the problem facing prison governors in Wales – and suggest the Government is also failing to take action to solve it.

“Random drugs testing in prisons is clearly not acting as a deterrent.”

The issues dominated exchanges in the Commons yesterday at Welsh Questions, where Ms Gillan accused the Government of looking at the issue “through rose-tinted glasses”.

Wales Office Minister Huw Irranca-Davies said: “We are actually succeeding. The bare facts on this are that 8.6% of mandatory drug tests gave positive results in 2006-07 – this compares to 20% 10 years ago.

“And the rate of those testing positive for opiates has fallen by over 25% over the last 10 years.

“So while I do understand the tabloidese headlines that would make these into huge stories, the actual trends and evidence shows the drug programmes in our prisons are working.”

Funding for drug treatment in prisons was £24m for 2008-09 and would increase to £39m in 2009-10 and £43m in 2010-11, he said.

Newport West MP Paul Flynn said the decision in May to reclassify cannabis as a class B would add to the problem.

“We would be sending cannabis users into prison to be discharged as heroin addicts,” he said.