The Ministry of Justice and Her Majesty's Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) takes seriously the ongoing challenges that substance misuse, including psychoactive substances (PS) pose to our establishments and we continue to implement a range of measures to address both the availability and use of such harmful substances. This is based on a multi-agency approach working closely with health partners and law enforcement agencies.
We welcome the work that the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) has done to draw further attention to the role that psychoactive substances have played in a number of deaths in prison custody, and the lessons from his investigations into these cases are informing our programme of work to prevent self-inflicted deaths in custody and to improve safety in prisons more generally.
We have not made an assessment of the impact of PS on reoffending, but know that that substance misuse more widely is associated with higher rates of reoffending.
Figures drawn from the HMPPS Incident Reporting System suggest there were just over 4000 incidents where psychoactive substances were found in prisons between August 2016 and July 2017 in England and Wales. Prisons have at their disposal a range of security measures to reduce the supply of drugs into prisons including physical searching, the use of x-ray machines, CCTV surveillance cameras, intelligence-led searches as well as drug detection dogs. HMPPS have trained more than 300 dogs to detect PS and these dogs are available to all prisons. HMPPS are also exploring additional innovative security measures and new technology to complement existing searching methods in prisons.
The introduction of mandatory drug testing for psychoactive substances in prisons in September 2016 was also a significant step to support our prisons in tackling the supply and use of these lethal drugs. We are not aware of any other prison service in the world that has introduced these innovative new tests.
There were 27,277 random mandatory drug tests administered between October 2016 and March 2017. Each sample taken is tested for a range of illicit drugs, including psychoactive substances. As these are random drugs tests, prisoners tested in a single month are unique, but an individual prisoner could be chosen in multiple months. Figures for 2017/18 will be published in the Annual HMPPS Digest in July 2018.
We routinely and regularly conduct research to determine the range of substances in prisons to ensure that we are testing for the substances that are most commonly used.
Drug treatment also plays an important role in tackling PS in prisons. Substance misuse services in England are commissioned through NHS England to provide a range of services to support recovery and rehabilitation. We work closely with health partners to tackle the harms of substance misuse, including PS and to provide staff and prisoners with the tools, support and information they need. This includes operational guidance, learning/ training days and a toolkit for clinical and operational staff and leaflets/ posters, radio campaigns and drug-related interventions for prisoners.
As part of our commitments in the Prison Safety and Reform White Paper, published in November 2016, we will invest to strengthen the frontline with 2,500 additional prison officers by 2018. These new prison officers will receive dedicated substance misuse training which explains the substantial impact of drug use, particularly psychoactive substances, implementation of the Psychoactive Substance Act 2016 in prisons and insight into what they can do to prevent further PS supply and use.