Inmates at a UK prison say it is easier for them to get hold of drugs than clothes or bedding.

A report from an inspection of HMP Bedford found that drugs were readily available at the prison and 14% of inmates surveyed said they had developed a substance misuse problem while serving their sentence.

Following the May inspection of HMP Bedford, Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke said: “The stark reality is that prisoners told us it was easier to get illegal drugs in the prison than it was to get clothes or sheets.”

A poll carried out by prison inspectors found that almost double the number of prisoners believed it was easy or very easy to get illegal substances than during the previous inspection in February 2014.

One of the substances which is widely used at the prison, which houses around 500 male inmates, is Spice – a new psychoactive substance which is designed to mimic cannabis.

Substance misuse has led to increased violence

It is believed the increase in drug use has been responsible for a rise in violence and self-harm at the prison. The number of self-harm incidents had risen from 67 to 121 in the six months before the inspection.

Mr Clarke said: “Standards in the prison have declined to unacceptable levels.”

Drug testing is carried out in prisons to try and identify inmates with substance misuse problems and to find out which substances are making it into the institution. One of the issues has been that prisoners are using substances which used to be referred to as ‘legal highs’ and are not always detected by conventional drugs tests.

In response to the problem Justice Secretary Liz Truss ordered that new psychoactive substances (NPS) are included in mandatory drug testing programmes at prisons throughout England and Wales.

Prisoners who are suspected of being involved in bringing banned items like drugs into prison could face a range of punishments including longer sentences, solitary confinement, missing out on visits with their family members, losing their prison earnings or privileges or even being transferred to another prison with tighter security.

Drug testing is a useful tool in uncovering individuals with a substance misuse issue. AlphaBiolabs carries out legal drug testing for a number of organisations including law firms, courts and local authorities as well as workplace testing for employers who want to ensure illegal substances are not being abused by their staff.