Prisons Get Spice Detecting Scanners

1 February 2019, 14:36 | Updated: 1 February 2019, 15:02

Inmates In Prison

Jails across England are getting specialist scanning equipment for letters, following an investigation by Heart.

They're being installed in 10 jails regarded as the most "challenging".

The Prison Service say they can detect whether paper and clothing has been soaked in the drug Spice - and even household chemicals.

It follows an investigation by our reporter Charlotte Lynch, which uncovered ways in which dangerous substances are smuggled in to jails.

Last month, an ex-prisoner who was PAID to smuggle spice past guards, told us:

"Spraying it on paper, writing the letter and smoking it on paper. I have known solicitors letters come through, that's a big one that is.

"Prison officers check the letters, but they're not allowed to check solicitors letters, so it would just come straight through wouldn't it, straight to your pad [cell]".

It was reiterated by Craig Robson, who's a prison officer at HMP Durham. He told us a piece of paper the size of a debit card, laced with spice, can be sold for £50.

The Prison Service say they have found items laced with drugs and chemicals - including alloy wheel cleaner, insect poison, koi carp sedative and acetone.

Craig says they've already got one at HMP Durham but inmates still find ways of getting Spice in.

"They'll try any way. From the courts... license recalls... we might have 5 or 6 incidents in one day. What we want is body scanners, so when people come in we scan their body to see if they've got it internally".

We've also spoken to an ex-prisoner, who was locked up in HMP Nottingham, which is one of the jails getting a paper scanner.

He says, "I don't think it will work, just for the simple fact that there's plenty of other ways of getting drugs in to prison.

"I saw a drone several times fly over and drop packages off".

The director of the Prison Reform Trust Peter Dawson has suggested another way to reduce the problem, saying "You can't spray Spice on to an email."

The Ministry of Justice told us it's spending 14 million pounds on measures to tackle gangs that sell drugs in prison.

The ten jails benefitting from a new scanner are:

Humber, East Riding of Yorkshire
Lindholme, near Doncaster
Moorland, Hatfield Woodhouse, South Yorkshire
Wealstun, near Wetherby, West Yorkshire
Ranby, Nottinghamshire
Wormwood Scrubs, west London
Isis, south-east London