Source:   Scotland On Sunday, Edinburgh, UK
Contact:    Sun, 10 Aug 1997

Drugfree jails new tactic to fight crime

The vicious hold drug barons have on Scottish jails is being weakened by
the growing number of prisoners who are setting up drugfree areas in an
effort to kick their habit.

Almost half of Scotland's prisons have now created drugfree zones where
inmates can try to 'stay clean' without being offered, or pressurised into
taking, illegal substances. Around 500 of the country's 6,100 prisoners are
already living in drugs nogo areas.

If the areas prove successful, they could stop criminals from reoffending,
cut drugrelated crime and help reduce prison overcrowding by helping
addicts to lead stable lives free of crime upon release. The areas may also
curb the violence which has led to a frightening level of attacks 
stabbings, slashings and even murders  involving prisoners in drugrelated

The evidence so far is encouraging. Since Low Moss jail near Glasgow opened
its first drugfree dormitory last October, only five of the 100 inmates
who have stayed there have tested positive during the regular random drug
tests carried out by prison authorities. All the tests were for cannabis,
not harder drugs such as heroin.

"It would be unrealistic to expect drug habits formulated over 12 to 15
years to change overnight, so we expect some failures," said Bill
Middleton, the governer at Low Moss. "But in the main it is proving quite

At Inverness jail, just four out of the 30 inmates who have stayed in the
drugfree areas since last Decemeber have been caught breaking their
promise to stay clean. The governer, Hamish Ross, said the low failure rate
vindicated the prison's decision, backed by inmates, to designate four
zones  one in the female wing  as drugfree areas. The "clean"
accommodation houses 36 of the jail's 130 prisoners.

By the time Low Moss declares the fourth of its 13 dormitories to be
drugfree later this month, almost a third of its 380 convicts will be
living in such accommodation.

To transfer to a drugfree dormitory, drugaddicted prisoners must go
through a fourday detoxification process, agree to undergo regular
unannounced urine tests and sign a 'contract' based on total abstinence
from illicit substances. In return, the jail agrees to maintain a genuinely
drugfree environment.

Middleton hopes Low Moss can eventually become Scotland's first entirely
drugfree jail. "That's a not unrealistic ambition," he said. "But it would
be a very hard job to get there. It would be achievable maybe in two or
three years."

Barlinnie prison in Glasgow will also open its first drugfree area soon.
The 50space drug support unit will be housed in the jail's refurbished D
hall when it reopens within weeks after a year's closure. The cells will
boast toilets, electric power and hot and cold water  rare privileges in
the decrepit Victorian prison.

Inmates who agree to go drugfree in Scotland are usually given some sort
of reward. Margaret Brown, the drugs support unit's governor, expects that
when it opens there will be more volunteers than places available.

One man who has asked to be moved there, a heroin addict for five years,
did so after his wife threatened to divorce him. "This is his last chance,"
said Brown. "He either gets off drugs or she'll leave him and he'll lose
his two kids too. So he decided this is it. We'll help him with that."

Clive Fairweather, Scotland's chief inspector of prisons, praises the
recent spread of drugfree areas in his annual report which will be
published next week. In it he warns that reducing chronic overcrowding in
Scotland's jails "would be the greatest help of all in the fight against
drugs" and help to allow further growth of ndrugs zones. "We're coming
across more prisoners than ever before saying: 'We don't want anything to
do with drugs'," revealed Fairweather. He said mandatory drug testing,
which began in 1996 but was extended to all of Scotland's jails last
spring, was helping inmates to go drugfree.

He said society would benifit hugely from lower crime rates if criminals
were helped to go drugfree while in jail and stay 'clean' outside.

The Scottish Prison Service is about to start studying the effectiveness of
drugfree zones as part of an evaluation of antidrugs strategies. David
Stewart, the SPS's director of strategy, said governors feel that even if
prisoners stay off drugs a few weeks after release, the effort has been