Prisoners get high with drug soaked underwear
Boxer being checked at HMP Pentonville prison in London. Photo by Andrew Aitchison/In pictures via Getty Images
Trousers and socks containing potent drugs are smuggled into British prisons so that inmates can get high.
Prison authorities are increasingly finding a variety of clothing soaked in highly toxic synthetic cannabinoids, better known as “Spice”, and the strong benzo etizolam. Prisoners put the clothes in water to extract the substances they were soaked in, turn them into psychoactive tea by boiling wicks, or smoke or vaporize the torn, drug-soaked material.
Drug-soaked clothes are the latest tactic in a long game of hide-and-seek between authorities and prisoners who want to get high – mainly because they are bored and stressed.
Most drugs arrive in prisons via visitors, corrupt prison staff, and packaged in plastic capsules stored in the buttocks of incoming prisoners. But the prisoners had to invent a series of other methods, including substances soaked in letters and drawings, inserted into dead pigeons thrown over the wall, carried by drone or carried by drug mule cats.
The dress tactic has been discovered throughout the prison system in Scotland, as well as HMPs in Leeds, Doncaster, Rochester and Wrexham in England and Wales.
A Scottish Prison Service spokesperson told VICE World News: “We are finding more and more clothing such as underwear, socks, towels and jeans being sent to drug-soaked prisons.
“Clothes that test positive for drugs are confiscated or destroyed. We heard that the prisoners soaked the clothes in water, washed off the drugs and drank them. Some use these clothes to make etizolam tea.
The method of soaking clothes has been adopted since authorities realized that inmates were receiving letters and drawings containing drugs. Prisons now make photocopies of mailed letters and drawings, instead of giving the originals.
A study by the University of Dundee’s Leverhulme Research Center for Forensic Science, which tests items for the presence of drugs in Scottish prisons, said drugs “can be infused in active doses into equipment at herbal, paper, clothing and other materials that are then smoked or vaped.” He said the impregnation of everyday materials with synthetic cannabinoids and etizolam made them difficult to detect by prison authorities.
A routine inspection at HMP Rochester by the Prison Inspectorate in October revealed that prisoners had complained of long delays in receiving clothing from family and friends because the prison had begun regular testing of underpants and socks after discovering that some had been doused in drugs.
Rob Ralphs, a criminologist at Manchester Metropolitan University who specializes in prison drug markets, said authorities in Scotland have frequently encountered clothing and bedding impregnated with etizolam, a drug driving record death out there outside the prisons. He said inmates would tear the drug-soaked textiles to shreds and boil them in a kettle and call it “etizolam tea”.
“As forensic chemists developed methods of detecting these substances on paper and prisons began photocopying mail, we began to hear of Spice and benzodiazepines such as Etizolam entering the field. penitentiary impregnated on clothing and bedding.
“It’s a game of cat and mouse between prison staff and prisoners that the mice are clearly winning,” Ralphs said. He said drug crackdowns in prisons have simply led prisoners to use more dangerous drugs.
“It has been over 25 years since mandatory drug testing was introduced into our prison system, with the aim of reducing drug use in prison. During this time, we have seen inmates switch from cannabis to heroin, with heroin being detectable within 48 hours, compared to up to 30 days for cannabis. Then we witnessed the shift to synthetic cannabinoids as the drug of choice in prison, as they were difficult to detect by smell or existing drug tests.
Ralphs said that when the smoke-free prison policy was rolled out in 2018, it led to a shift from the weed-like form of Spice (plant material pulverized with synthetic cannabinoids) to smoking it on impregnated paper” because it was easier to conceal in the rooms searches and security were looking for plant matter.” He said vapes introduced under the smoke-free policy that banned smoking were used to ignite the spice-infused paper .
“What we have learned over the past 25 years is that prisoners are inventive and find new ways to circumvent security response, frustrating attempts to prevent drug use in the prison setting, leading to more harm to users, more disruption in the penitentiary field. but apparently not leading to any reduction in drug use in prison,” Ralphs said.
“When drugs are sprayed onto paper or clothing and consumed using these methods, it is much more difficult for the user to gauge the amount consumed. This makes drug use in prison more unpredictable and dangerous.
Many drug-related deaths in prison are linked to Spice use, according to the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO).
The latest data on drug-related deaths in prison from the PPO, seen by VICE World News, shows that the agency launched 203 investigations into drug-related deaths in the prison system in the past five years, compared to 66 over the previous five years – a three – times go up.
The OPP said Spice kills some otherwise healthy young inmates due to its ability to increase heart rate, increase blood pressure, reduce blood supply to the heart, slow breathing and induce vomitings. The agency had hoped that the suspension of social visits and COVID restrictions would reduce opportunities for drug smuggling in prison, and therefore reduce drug-related deaths. But she clarifies that “unfortunately, this does not seem to have been the case”.
The spice is usually related to young offenders and street homeless people population outside of prisons. But the drug caused a sharp increase in drug addiction, health emergencies, violence, bullying and debt behind bars.
In November, the head of the Prison’s Officers Association called for action after saying the use of Spice in prisons had reached a “very dangerous level” and was causing chaos in UK prisons. The government’s Prison Inspectorate described Spice as “the most serious threat to the safety and security of the prison system”.
Drugs are popular in prison due to a absence of significant activity – a problem in UK prisons despite research showing that being productive in prison makes inmates less likely to re-offend after release.
Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said the solution to the spice epidemic in UK prisons was not just to try to keep drugs out.
“Reducing demand is the biggest challenge. It’s about giving inmates reasons not to use drugs – a full and helpful daily routine, easy contact with families, good mental health support whether or not you have a substance abuse problem, the opportunity to get in shape and stay in shape, and perhaps above all a bit of hope for the future.