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The Reasons, Types And Effects Of Drugs In Prison

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For decades, illegal smuggling of drugs has been a severe problem in England and Wales prisons. According to Alex (2018), approximately 40% of incarcerated individuals test positive for drugs. Prisoners who use drugs suffer from mental and physical health complications, and their likelihood of recovering are minimal.

Also, addicted prisoners pose a severe threat to the society since on release they often commit crimes to fund their habits. In a nutshell, the core purpose of the prisons is to reduce crime, but with the current situation, it’s clear that they are failing.

For this reason, there is need to adopt mitigation measures such as keeping drugs out of prison, reducing the demand of drugs in prison and offering recovery support to prisoners who are battling addiction (Lappi-Seppälä, & Nuotio, 2019) The interventions mentioned above are dependent; thus failure of one aspect will undoubtedly result to failure to address the drug menace in prison.

The core mandate of the Criminal justice system is to serve justice to offenders while protecting the public. The United Kingdom has enacted three principal statutes that aim to control drug use they include The Misuse Of Drugs Act (1971), The Medicines Act (1968), and the Psychoactive Substances Act (2016).

The Misuse Of Drugs Act (MIDA), aims at forbidding non-medical usage of drugs in U.K. To effectively implement this law, law enforcement agency have the authority to cease, arrest and search individuals on reasonable notion that they have controlled drugs. Psychoactive Substances Act (2016), regulates production, possession, and supply of psychoactive substances. In this context, the maximum sentence of offenders is seven years. The Medicines Act 1968 governs supply and manufacture of medicine. It also requires a pharmacist to obtain dealers license for accountability purposes.

According to Ashworth (2015), criminal punishment can be categorized into five main components namely; incapacitation, deterrence, retribution, rehabilitation, and restoration. Incapacitation aims at preventing the occurrence of future crime by moving criminals away from the community. The punishment can be informed of house arrest, the death penalty, life imprisonment and incarceration (Hayes, 2018).

Deterrence seeks to convince citizens and re-offenders or possible offenders to strictly remain to the rule of law (Pereboom, 2018). However, the effectiveness of this form of punishment is hard to assess since individuals may follow the law for other reasons such as moral beliefs, lack of opportunity or incapacitation. Retributions represent one of the oldest forms of punishment. Wenzel (2016) highlights that retribution prevents crime by assuring the victims and the society that the defendant has been punished accordingly thus creating a narrative that the criminal justice system is functioning effectively.

According to Doggett (2017), Rehabilitation is a standard policy in the U.S and U.K, and it aims at assisting the criminals, and prisoners overcome the challenges that motivated them to commit crimes. It encompasses the development of occupational skills and combating psychological issues such as aggression and drug addiction.

Restoration is a relatively new approach in the criminal justice system. Ideally, it entails amending the relationship between the victim and the society or community in which the offense was committed. The process of restoration initiates a mechanism where the offender meets with the victim and share feelings and experiences. Also, the dialogue offers a platform for the victim to be heard and for the offender to ask for forgiveness (Strang, & Braithwaite, 2017). Restorative justice is commonly used in crimes linking youth offenders

Theoretical Approaches To Correctional Policy

The main theories used in the criminal justice system include retribution theories, deterrence theories, rehabilitation theories, remediation theories, and self-defense theories all of which forms the basis of correctional policies. The theories are either divided into utilitarian and retributive theories. Retribution theories assert that the offender should be punished proportionally to the crime committed (Tonry, 2018). Additionally, it seeks to punish offenders citing that they deserve to be punished.

According to the retributivist school of thought, individuals have free will thus capable of devising rational decisions . in this context, the offender who is incompetent or insane should not be punished. However, individuals who are capable of making conscious choices to distort the normal functioning of society should be punished accordingly.

Utilitarian theory aims at maximizing the happiness of the community (Lee, 2017) . For this reason, they are consequential and advocate for punishment for both the society and the offender. It asserts that the benefits produced should surpass the total evil. Utilitarian's comprehend that a crime free society is fictitious; therefore; they are committed to causing punishment as it is required to deter future crimes.

Therefore, criminal justice system incorporates both retributive theory and utilitarian tenets in contemplating the judgments to cater to the needs of both the defendant and the society (Kubrin & Wo, 2016).


The psychoactive substances were the most common progressive drug test results in 2017/18 which of 60% of positive samples comprising them. Additional the second highest was cannabis, at 28%. Increase in drugs being discovered in prison which over the last five years. These types of drug tests are mandatory, but prisoners have the rights to refuse the drug test but will can face disciplinary procedure.


Visitors use diverse methods to pass their illegal imports to the prisoners. Necessarily not meaning visitors willingly taking drugs into prison it could also be being forced and being under pressure from the third parties.

Also drugs can be held in a visitor’s mouth which than can be passed to the prisoner (kissing), other ways could be anal or virginal concealment of drugs which is removed when they go to the toilet. Also there are other unnoticeable methods and swallowed or plugged by inmates and hiding packages in children’s clothing/ nappies.

Facts- its understood the government's spending £15m on new X-ray scanners for jails in England and Wales. A woman who hid cannabis and a mobile phone in her bra for her son while visiting him in prison has been jailed.

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A good example is the case of Helen Kyneston, 55, who hid cannabis and a mobile phone in bra for her son while visiting. The woman was seen placing the items into a crisp packed while enjoying her lunch with her son at HMP Peterborough on 2nd Jan. Her son was later searched and items with a prison value of up to £1, 200 were found. For this offence, Kyneston of Eastflieds, Littleport, was jailed for 12 months after she admitted carrying items into prison.

Over prison walls

It is possible for small packages containing drugs to be thrown over the fence or walls. These are than collected by intimates who use illicit mobile phones smuggled into facility to co-ordinate the collection. Furthermore as technologies have advanced, an increase of number of cases have occurred where packages were dropped-in by drones.

Gang members of a gang which used drones to fly more than £500,000 worth of drugs into prison, the gang members were responsible for 55 drone deliveries into prison around the country between April 2016 and June 2017. In one month prison officers seized 28 drug packages, 44 mobile phones and 18 parcels that had been thrown over the perimeter wall, with the estimated total value of more than £15,000.


In 2013/14 in England there were 349 incidents where discovered in prison post .This is due to not all letters being scanned, one institution allowed inmates to receive Christmas cards there was an increase of drugs in prison. For examples in a Scottish prison inmates are no longer allowed to receive their children artwork or drawing after an incidence where powdered Valium was found in the paint. Staff at HMP Shotts in Lanarkshire found that Valium had been painting onto the art work which inmates can cut up and eat it.



The link between violence and drugs in prison has increased over the years . This results in assaults, blackmail and violence not only between the prisoners, but also against prison employees. Its know that inmates have said to assault, threaten or pressure staff when drugs are short of supply, which is caused by enhanced drug enforcement.

According to the Ministry of justice the number of attacks recorded hit a record of 31,025, up 16 per cent and of which 9,003 were assaults on staff, the figure rose by more than a quarter 26% in the 12months to March. (Jamie Grierson. 2018

New psychoactive substance

Psychoactive Substances Act (2016), regulates production, possession, and supply of psychoactive substances. In this context, the maximum sentence of offenders is seven years.

NPS are known to be drugs which are designed to replicate the effects of illegal substances such as cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy. Nicknamed spice or the zombie drug. It was reported that seizures of spice have increased from 15 in 2010 to 430 during the seven months from 1 Jan to 1 July 2014. during the same period it was recorded there was only 21 seizures of ketamine, mephedrone and benzylpiparazine combined

Symptoms of spice

  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Suicidal thoughts or action
  • Sweating
  • Confusion
  • Paranoia

NHS report by User Voice hears directly from inmates the true horrors of NPS use in prisons.

Reasons for spice use-

  • Boredom
  • Self meditation
  • Enjoyment
  • Coping strategy
  • Existing habit

Addiction 77% - Inmates said in their experience spice is more dangerous than heroin

Dept. 73%- Inmates stated it will lead for prisoners to steal form other cells to pay their dept.

Violence 63%- Inmates also said that violence is bond to kick off at any time due to dept. and spice it was also stated that a prisoner can be nice one minute and next turn into a monster.

Bullying 61%-It was said by a prisoner once your in dept. with spice you would have to give your clothes and trainers and you will just watch them get bullied. Also if prisoner were to be incapacitated they can be targeted in a very derogatory way.


Mental health 51%

  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Confusion
  • Heart attacks
  • Vomiting /seizures
  • Harm by violence
  • Sweating

Physical health 60%

  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety
  • Hulusnation
  • Depression
  • Self harm and even sucide

Staff and prisoners under stress

  • £900 million - cut 700 staff cuts
  • Leading to less temporary release
  • Prisoners to spend more time in their cell
  • Less self improvement classes

The national chairman of the professional trades union for prison correctional, psychiatric workers said the spike in violence and the cuts are inextcaberly linked

Social problem

There is a positive correlation between penology and social issues. This is because crimes occur in a society influenced mainly by societal norms(Quinney& Shelden, 2018). Also, crimes are directly proportional to the prevailing circumstances in society. Societal factors such as low levels of education, poverty, and affiliation to subcultures among other predispose individuals to crime (Burraston, McCutcheon, & Watts, 2018). According to Haines (2014), social problems escalates the level of crime in the neighborhoods.

According to the office for national statistics (ONS), individuals with disposable income below £10,000 per year often experience violence incidents two times higher than individuals whose income is above £50,000. Social problems and criminology are inseparable. In most cases crime is more experienced in poorer neighborhoods, and individuals who have committed crime are more likely to suffer from social breakdown such as drug addiction, low education levels , and unemployment among others (The center for social justice, 2015)


Drug abuse remains a menace in prisons and policymakers are tasked with ensuring that illicit drugs don’t find their way into the prisons. Be that as it may, addicted inmates should be given recovery support through rehabilitation to minimize the intake of drugs. While crime is a product of social interactions, the government of the UK should come up with policies to suppress social problems such as unemployment, low levels of educations and poverty to reduce delinquency rates.

Criminology theories play an essential role in preserving social solidarity and freedom through the punishment of individuals committing crimes. Therefore criminal justice officials should ensure that a balance is struck between societal needs and individual needs. This will play a critical role in instituting appropriate prevention programs for controlling crime. A criminal justice system remains a vital part of the society. Therefore, courts, law enforcement agencies, and correctional facilities should team up to reduce crimes in the society.

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The Reasons, Types And Effects Of Drugs In Prison. (2021, September 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 3, 2023, from
“The Reasons, Types And Effects Of Drugs In Prison.” Edubirdie, 09 Sept. 2021,
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