SCOTS PRISONERS were caught with drugs on more than 7,000 occasions last year – with killer “street” Valium figures skyrocketing in jails over recent months.
In total, officers recovered 7,315 individual articles of illegal drugs from prisoners across Scotland’s fifteen prisons – averaging out at 20 drug recoveries every day.
The shocking figures, obtained through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, show how the amount of Etizolam in prisons has increased by over 600% in the last year.
Etizolam is a benzodiazepine which is similar to Valium but is reportedly a lot stronger and far more dangerous.
The drug, also known as “blue plague” pills, was responsible for 814 drug deaths in Scotland in 2019.
In May 2020, Etizolam was discovered in four Scottish prisons with the total number of incidents being recorded as eleven.
However, in March of this year, prison officers recorded 78 incidents of the drug being found in jails across twelve prisons.
This represents a 609% increase of the drug being recovered from within Scottish prisons.
Alongside this, officers also recovered high amounts of cocaine, heroin and various psychoactive substances.
The two prisons with the worst numbers of drug recoveries are also privately operated with HMP Addiewell, in West Lothian, noting over 1,200 drug recoveries in the last year.
However, last night these prisons claimed that their numbers also involved anyone trying to bring in contraband to the prisons.
HMP Kilmarnock in East Ayrshire closely follows with over 1,100 drug recoveries from inmates in the last year.
Both of these privately run prisons cost the Scottish taxpayer a staggering £44 million between 2017 and 2018.
Drug use in Scottish prisons has also skyrocketed since 2006, with 2,210 prisoners being caught abusing drugs in 2019-20.
In 2006-07, the number was only 209 which represents an increase of 957%.
The Scottish Conservatives slammed the findings and branded the SNP as having a “soft-touch approach” to drug usage in Scotland.
Scottish Conservative justice spokesman Liam Kerr today said: “Prisons should be helping to rehabilitate offenders but we have little chance of achieving that if they are rife with drugs.
“These figures will alarm the public who expect our prisons to be secure environments.
“We know prison officers always do their best to get on top of these situations, often at risk to themselves.
“Unauthorised substance use in prisons has spiralled under the SNP’s soft-touch approach, rising by almost 1000 per cent.
“It is clear Ministers need to take greater action to protect hardworking officers on the frontline.
“SNP Ministers have continually talked about tackling drug usage in prisons for too long without taking meaningful action.
“That must change if inmates are to have any chance of rehabilitation and contributing to society once they are released.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Prisons Service today said: “We recognise the importance of providing a safe and secure environment for our staff and those in our care.
“Any prohibited items being recovered within our establishments can be attributed to the professionalism and diligence of our staff and partners, advances in technology and the deployment of various methods of detection, such as intelligence gathering and tactical dog units.
“A comprehensive range of robust security measures are in place to prevent the introduction of contraband into our prisons.
“Significant investment continues to be made in the development of new technology and staff training to detect, deter and reduce the availability and supply of illegal drugs.
“Anyone found in possession of contraband or attempting to smuggle such items into our prisons will be reported to the appropriate authorities.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson today said: “The use of illegal drugs in prisons is not tolerated and a comprehensive range of robust security measures are in place to prevent the introduction of contraband entering our prisons.
“All prisons use Rapiscan machines, which detect substances that may have been concealed in items of mail and personal property.
“The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) has issued clear guidance to staff on safe methods of working to ensure searches can continue throughout the pandemic.
“SPS continues to seek innovative technological solutions in order to detect, deter and reduce the availability of contraband entering our prisons to ensure the safety of staff and those within its care.”
A spokesperson for HMP Addiewell toda said: “Safety and security is our top priority and these figures reflect the hard work and diligence of our staff in preventing illicit items getting into the prison and in detecting such items when they do.
“This is a challenge that HMP Addiewell, like all other prisons, faces but one that will always be a key priority.
“Our staff deploy a range of tactics to stop illicit items being introduced to the prison and have robust searching procedures in place.”