Political News Updates


Parliamentary Briefing - New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) in Prisons

The POA have for a number of years now consistently and repeatedly expressed concerns about the increasing use, by offenders held in our prisons, of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS). These concerns are not limited to offenders with a history of drug misuse prior to entering the prison system but those who previously had no history of such use.

In September 2015 Nick Hardwick, then HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, stated that two-thirds of prisons reported having a “significant issue” with NPS in 2014-15 compared to one-third in 2013-14

This is borne out by the statistical data that is available:







































This use of these drugs are intended to give offenders a feeling of relaxation, euphoria, disinhibition, feeling energised, altered consciousness. Unfortunately there are also a number of adverse effects convulsions, paralysis, psychosis, extreme bizarre behaviour, tachycardia, increased aggression. It is the reactions to these dangerous side effects that have led to significant increases in violence and in the number of offenders and staff that have had to be transported to hospital for treatment.

The absence of an effective rapid urine or blood test to confirm the use of these drugs has further hampered the ability of prison staff to combat the rise in the use of NPS within our prisons.

The POA are sure that the increased use of NPS in prisons is contributing to rising problems with debt, bullying and violence between offenders and against staff. There is we believe increasing evidence that suggests organised crime groups are supplying NPS to offenders within our prisons.

It is vital that every establishment has a strategic response plan with uniformed, health and psychosocial care staff all delivering a joint approach to managing the use of NPS in prisons.
Government must be made to realise that the rapidly increasing prevalence of NPS in prisons is placing additional demands on prisons and in particular staff resources in terms of supply disruption, searching, detection activities and escorting offenders to local Accident and Emergency for urgent medical attention. The POA call for additional resources to be made available to aid in the effort to combat the supply and use on NPS.

The increasingly violent and dangerous nature of offenders held in prisons alongside the expansion in the use of NPS is leading to additional incidents requiring the use of control and restraint of prisoners behaving abnormally, violently or dangerously, or indeed to transfer them to hospital, or to manage long-term challenging or aggressive behaviour, within the custodial environment need full and proper resourcing and the levels of funding.
These are a sample of the reports the POA are receiving on a weekly basis.

HMP Wymott - A number of officers were tasked to search a cell following information received that NPS was stored there. The search took place, during which a flask was opened and a ‘vapour’ was let off in to the air. Immediately the staff felt light headed and unsteady on their feet. The cell was ventilated and the search continued with different staff. A number of other NPS tablets etc were recovered. Four staff were taken to the local A&E and discharged once checked over by medical staff.

HMP Durham - An Officer attended an incident within the prison where an inmate was either under the influence of some form of substance or was taking a fit due to the use of NPS. The Officer reported that he was in the confines of the cell during the whole incident which lasted approximately 30 to 40 mins. At the end of the incident he left the cell feeling physically drained and very light headed and disorientated.

HMP Leeds - An Officer detailed to work on one of the wings contacted the Orderly Officer due to feeling unwell. The Officer reported that she was unsteady on her feet, her vision was blurred, had a severe headache, she was incoherent and had to concentrate on her speech to colleagues. The Officer attended Leeds General Infirmary A&E and was seen by a nurse – they stated that her blood pressure was slightly high but nothing to be worried about. She was then seen by a consultant, who stated the symptoms she was showing were due to the effects of NPS Spice, and they are learning a lot about it in recent months. He stated at this time there was no ‘miracle cure’ but he advised plenty of fresh air and maintaining being hydrated, and to try ‘sleep it off’.