Five drug busts every day in prisons – and it’s tip of the iceberg

MORE sniffer dogs should be used in Scotland’s prisons to stem the increasing flow of drugs into jails, according to a governor.
Nigel Ironside, who is in charge of Saughton prison in Edinburgh, said dogs in visitor areas would help deter relatives of inmates and “mules” bringing in drugs.

An average of five seizures are made every day in the country’s jails – and this is to be a relatively small percentage of the true volume of narcotics reaching inmates.

However, efforts to stop the flow of drugs are being hampered by the absence of dedicated sniffer dog teams in each prison. There are currently eight dogs used across the country’s 14 jails – or one dog for every 1,000 prisoners.

Such limited numbers mean they are used only in targeted operations, but not during routine visits, through which a large proportion of drugs found inside prisons are smuggled.

The number of drug seizures has reached historically high levels in recent years, rising from 862 in 2003 to 1,779 last year.

Between April and July this year, 270g of heroin and 88g of cocaine were recovered, compared with 1.012kg and 145g for the whole of last year.

Mr Ironside said:

“We know that when dogs are around during visits, many people planning to come in with drugs are deterred because they know they will detect them.”

However, he said he did not think it was right to “go down the route of the US model” by generally restricting personal visits, as this would damage rehabilitation of prisoners, making it more likely they will commit crime after their release.

Saughton Prison is facing a growing tide of drug smuggling as the numbers of inmates increase. The jail is designed to hold 771 prisoners but yesterday was holding 855.

Prison officers have intercepted or found more than 50g of class “A” drugs and 76 mobile phones, which can be used in drug trafficking, in the past three months alone.

Mr Ironside said staff are facing an uphill battle to reduce the amount of drugs being smuggled inside prisons, admitting that officers probably fail to intercept most drugs.

A spokesman for the Scottish Prison Service said officials were looking to increase the use of sniffer dogs to root out drugs. “We are currently considering this option,” he said.

Prison staff are making increasing use of CCTV and intelligence from police and the Serious Organised Crime Squad to intercept drugs. Despite this, they say they will probably never be able to eradicate drugs from prisons altogether.

The call for more sniffer dogs came as Kenny MacAskill, the justice secretary, pledged a “zero tolerance” approach to drugs in prisons. He was speaking after witnessing first-hand a new model of treating drug-addicted inmates at Saughton Prison. This integrates medical treatment with therapeutic support.

Mr MacAskill said that as prisoner numbers remain at record levels, the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) faces a “testing time”.

But he added: “I am fully committed to zero tolerance of illegal drug use and trafficking in prisons, and I know I am fully supported by the SPS.”

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