Emergency action has been taken to reduce the population of a Nottinghamshire jail by 120 inmates because it was in danger of being overwhelmed by a destabilising surge in the supply of “legal highs”.
The immediate temporary reduction in the 1,000-strong population in HMP Ranby followed a warning during an official inspection of the jail during August and September last year where many of the men are serving long sentences for serious offences.
Martin Lomas, the deputy chief inspector of prisons, recommended the emergency action saying staff at the jail needed to regroup in the face of a surge in the availability of new psychoactive substances – legal highs – in the jail and because it was struggling to cope with its dual roles as a working and resettlement prison.
Nearly 60% of prisoners told the inspectors that it was easy to get drugs inside the jail: “Health services were at risk of being overwhelmed by the need to treat the most seriously affected,” said the inspectors in their report on Ranby published on Thursday.
“As we walked round the prison, we saw a number of prisoners who were clearly under the influence of new psychoactive substances; some had been left with other prisoners to check they did not deteriorate because there was no available health care services or other staff to do so. In addition to the health consequences, the trade in new psychoactive substances was leading to high levels of debt and associated violence.”
The inspectors say that the drugs problem at the jail was on top of “an already dangerous mix” of high levels of frustration caused by the lack of work in some of the workshops which meant too many inmates had too little to do and were bored.
They found that safety was a major concern with a much higher than normal level of violent incidents: “In one incident, a group of prisoners muscled into a wing office to take back a ‘throw-over’ package of drugs that had just been intercepted by staff,” the inspectors report. There had been four self-inflicted deaths at the jail since April and a further death which is being treated as homicide, they added.
An extract from the full article which may be read in The Guardian 2015
A prisoner out of his head on legal highs rolls around in agony on a filthy jail floor as inmates film him on an illegal mobile.
The lag rocks helplessly back and forth in a violent seizure, seeming to drift in and out of consciousness. But his fellow convicts just laugh.
One man, sensing potential disaster, shouts for him to “breathe”.
But there are no prison staff in sight, and the man – believed to have been force-fed the drugs – is clearly in deep distress, robbed of all dignity.
A source said: “These are really unpleasant scenes. This is supposed to be a secure jail. To see a situation like this unfold is nothing short of a disgrace.”
The inmate filmed on a smuggled camera phone had taken a so-called legal high, a psychoactive substance.
These drugs, sold under street names like Spice and Black Mamba, mimic the affects of cannabis but are far stronger.
They are freely sold on the web in Britain as research chemicals using a “not for human consumption” loophole, for as little as £8.49 a gram.
But they are worth far more in jail, and are more easily smuggled in because sniffer dogs cannot detect them.
Our footage was shot at HMP Onley in Rugby, Warwicks.
A source claimed the man was deliberately forced into overdosing on the drug as a punishment by fellow cons.
Prison Service officials have repeatedly refused to give an account of what happened leading up to the man’s collapse, or say what treatment he received afterwards.
Horrified, a source passed the clip to the Sunday People, fearing nothing was being done to check the escalating problem of legal highs.
The source said: “The incident took place in a hallway adjacent to the cells on one of the wings. Apparently a few of the inmates are gang members and deal with legal and illegal drugs.
“The inmate on the floor allegedly owed money to these members. As he was unable to ‘pay’ he was subjected to physical abuse. This included being forced to swallow drugs till he overdosed and unfortunately he had a seizure.
“Other inmates tell him to breathe and throw water on him but no attempt to call staff is made, so officers are not present. Nothing is done to prevent this type of bullying so less prominent inmates are treated like this to teach them a lesson, or just for kicks.”
The source added: “It’s just completely wrong that this can happen.”
It is not known why the man in the video had been imprisoned.
Category C Onley is home to 720 lags, mainly from London jails who are nearing the end of their sentences. Some 75 are recovering addicts held on K wing.
Andrew Neilson, campaigns director of prison reform group the Howard League said: “If this video and the alleged circumstances behind it are genuine I think it does underline vividly the degree to which these new psychoactive substances are a scourge in overcrowded and under-resourced prisons.
“We offer legal representation to young people in prison and we’ve heard from them about incidents of violence and bullying that underpin the trade in legal highs.
“We’ve been told of prisons where people are ‘walking around like zombies’ because there’s so much Spice available and of ambulances arriving on a daily basis to take prisoners to hospital after they have a fit.
“It only takes a couple of prison officers to be escorting a prisoner to hospital that may mean a whole wing has to be locked down so prisoners are not able to leave their cells.
And he warned inmates were being used as guinea pigs by jail dealers before selling on drugs more widely.
Mr Djemil said: “There are so many incidences of people using legal highs in prison and having an adverse reaction they are now taking precautions by trying it out on other people and this could be one of those incidents rather than it being a punishment or a laugh.
“Sick as that is, it could have been tested out on this person before they sell it to others.” He added: “If you forget the drugs for a minute you’ve got a group of lads potentially filming in a prison.
“So not only can they not stop the drugs getting in, they can’t stop the phone getting in and it seems as though there are not enough prison officers to catch them filming. They weren’t exactly being quiet. They’re kind of failing on a number of levels.”
“The impact is shocking, with violence, addiction and deaths becoming more common. There is no quick fix – but by working with prison security, developing testing and providing rehabilitation we can tackle this major problem.”
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “We took immediate action after this incident came to light in July 2014.
Extract from an article printed in The Mirror 2015
Tony Blair has said he is struggling to understand the appeal of Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn because both are hampered by “the question of electability”.
The former British prime minister, a supporter of Hillary Clinton, admitted that he is finding it hard to grasp popular movements in both Britain and the USfavouring mavericks who will “rattle the cage” and which reflect a loss of faith in the progressive centre.
In a joint interview with the Guardian and the Financial Times in Washington, he emphasised that Americans must make their own decision but made clear his scepticism about Sanders, the leftwing senator whose challenge to wealthy eliteshas energised young supporters.
“It’s very similar to the pitch of Jeremy Corbyn,” Blair said. “Free tuition fees: well, that’s great, but someone’s going to have pay for it. An end to war, but there are wars.” But not wars with quite the ramifications of the Iraq war eh Tony?