It may seem a bit crazy that legal highs can result in longer jail sentences, with the key word being ‘legal’.

But their dangerous nature such as causing unpredictable and volatile behaviour mean that if prisons are caught in possession of or using the substances they could have extra days added to their sentence time, a period of isolation in their cell and be denied visitor privileges.

Legal highs are becoming an increasingly worrying issue within prisons, with rampant use and incidents of smuggling. The Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling said: “Go on to any prison wing, and staff will tell you that whilst we’ve made good headway on drug misuse in prisons, there’s a new phenomenon they are increasingly seeing in the form of so-called ‘legal highs’.”

He added: “What we’re also hearing is that these substances seem to be part of the problem around increasing violence in our prison estate. No one should be under any illusion how dangerous the abuse of any drug is. We are determined to make sure governors have every power at their disposal to detect supply, punish those found using or dealing, and enforce a zero tolerance approach.”

New legal high guidelines

The Ministry of Justice will send out new guidance later in February to prison governors setting out for the first of the powers they have to tackle legal highs. These will include up to 42 extra days added to a prisoner’s sentence, up to 21 days confinement to a cell and the denial of TV and visitor privileges.
The government will also train new specialist dog teams to search for these specific drugs in prisons. More than 530 dogs are used in prisons in England and Wales to search cells for hidden drugs, as well as patrol perimeters and prevent drugs from being smuggled in by visitors.

Warning notices will also caution offenders of the consequences they will face if they attempt to smuggle legal highs into their cells or are found to have taken the drugs.

Mr Grayling suggests that people using and supplying legal highs need to wise up. He said: “Prisoners should be very clear –if they think they can get away with using these substances, they need to think again. And the same applies to those who are the suppliers, whether they’re inside or outside the prison gates.”

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