Not Saussure

November 14, 2006

Drugs in Prison

Filed under: Law, Medicine, UK — notsaussure @ 8:01 pm

Great annoyance in the press about the out-of-court settlement worth about £3,750 each for the six prisoners and former prisoners who sued the Prison Service for trespass and criminal negligence for denying them methadone while they were in prison. The Telegraph’s editorial is typical:

Those naïve enough to think that a prison sentence should entail an element of punishment, even perhaps a smidgen of hardship, must think again.

Six drug-addicted prisoners who were deprived of their narcotics are — outrageously — being paid compensation after arguing that being subjected to the “cold turkey” of drug withdrawal breached their human rights.

Poor things. Has New Labour’s infatuation with human rights legislation ever produced a more spirit-lowering outcome?

This misses the point. It was a medical negligence case; the prisoners were receiving methadone as a heroin substitute under prescription from their GPs. This was withdrawn when they went into prison, not because their medical needs changed in any way but because the Prison Service doesn’t like dispensing methadone since it’s got a black market value in prison — a problem that could easily be solved, it seems to me, by dispensing it in liquid form and watching the prisoners while they drink it.

These chaps needed medical treatment and didn’t receive it. That shouldn’t have happened. Simple as that.

The inmates seem to have suffered more than ‘a smidgen of hardship’; the same issue of the Telegraph quotes one of them, Mark Philips, who

said he was given nothing for his drug addiction for three months after which he collapsed at Elmley Prison on the Isle of Sheppey. Only then was he given sleeping tablets and for 10 days, a drug called subutex.

“Those of us who have done this lawsuit are not money-grasping,” Mr Phillips, 38, told the Sun. “We are deserving cases. I have received a letter saying I should get my money in 28 days. When I was sent to prison I was on a methadone prescription. Once inside I was given nothing at all.

“I went through two or three months of hell. I could not sleep and I was given no anti-depressants. I collapsed in front of prison officers, but no one seemed to care.”

If anyone’s naïve in this it’s the Telegraph, or so it seems to me since, as anyone who knows about prisons and the criminal justice system will confirm, people aren’t generally deprived of narcotics while they’re in prison; if you’re inside and you want some heroin, it’s all too easy to buy some, as the results for mandatory drugs testing — released earlier this month — will confirm. If Mr Philips had merely wanted to relieve his withdrawal symptoms rather than — as he clearly did — to get off drugs, he’d have had very little difficulty laying his hands on black market heroin while he was inside.

The idea that all these drugs could be smuggled into prison only by visitors, or that, once the drugs are in the prison, the prison staff couldn’t locate them is absurd. The situation presumably exists, as The Magistrate’s Blog suggested a couple of months ago, because

Quite apart from the chance of a profit, many officers see drugs as a way of keeping inmates in a compliant drug-soaked haze.


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2 Comments »

  1. Naive isn’t the issue, it’s deliberate – the story, every day, has to be “the world’s going to hell and you, our readers, are the only honest, hard-working people in Britain. Everyone else is a criminal con-artist”.

    I was going to post something about this, but what would be the point?

    I’ve read posts on this issue from all over Britain, and the consensus seems to be “soppy liberals have declared that prisoners have a right to free heroin”.

    Trying to fight through the preconceptions is a Sysiphean ordeal.

    Comment by Flying Rodent — November 14, 2006 @ 11:38 pm

  2. I think that there is an agenda that is being followed by a significant proportion of the media. They have decided that the human rights act is bad and summary “justice” is good and are not going to let inconvenient facts get in the way.

    It seems like every story that seems to show the human rights act being used to protect the wrong people, or the law being any less than draconian is blown up out of all proportion and frequently heavily distorted to promote their point of view.

    On the other hand many issues that relate to personal freedom are simply ignored.

    This bias is no longer confined to certain newspapers who have never made any great secret about being partizan. It is also becomming increasingly more apparent in BBC and ITV reporting.

    Comment by Andrew — November 15, 2006 @ 10:43 am


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