Whistle blower: Spice is rife in Lancaster Farms prison

HMP Lancaster Farms
HMP Lancaster Farms

The legal high Spice is rife at Lancaster Farms prison and up to three prisoners a day are collapsing after overdosing on it, claims an insider.

The whistleblower who works at HMP Lancaster Farms said: “Spice is rife in the prison. A prisoner collapses due to taking spice every day. Parcels of it come over the wall into the prison every day. Prisoners find another vulnerable prisoner and test the spice by spiking their cigarette with it.

Legal highs.

Legal highs.

“There are emergencies time and time again, two or three times a day where prisoners are in a coma due to Spice. Some come round really quick but others don’t. I’m very concerned.”

Only two weeks ago on April 16, police were patrolling close to Lancaster prison when they came across two men in possession of drugs and other contraband. Both men were arrested and the items in their possession were seized. The whistleblower also claims the safety of staff is being compromised because there are not enough prison officers.

The person said: “There are volatile situations and fights break out.

“Our population is now an adult population, mainly murderers, rapists and paedophiles. The older generation don’t seem to be afraid of anything.

Vinny Romano, advanced paramedic with North West Ambulance Service.

Vinny Romano, advanced paramedic with North West Ambulance Service.

“I have never been attacked but I have been threatened and it’s what could happen. A lot of the time there isn’t a prison officer available. I’m concerned for the safety of staff.

“There are safety issues and someone needs to sort this.”

A Prison Service spokesman said: “Governors use sniffer dogs, cell searches and mandatory drugs tests to find drugs in prison and punish those responsible.

“Staff at HMP Lancaster Farms also work with police to restrict the supply of drugs into the prison, and the Government has also passed laws that mean those smuggling packages face up to two years in prison. It is incorrect to say there are two or three incidences a day of prisoners overdosing on new psychoactive substances.

“However, it is clear more must be done, which is why the Justice Secretary has asked the Ministry of Justice to look at how we can make sure prisons have the right tools in place to tackle these problems.”

The Howard League for Penal Reform has revealed in a report that the number of prison officers in the north west has been reduced by 32% from 3,937 to 2,690 between September 2010 and September 2013 due to prison closures.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “The prison system is at breaking point. Ministers and various MPs have used different figures to try to minimise the impact of prison closures. Everyone should be concerned. Violence and drug use is out of control.”

The prison officers’ union, the POA, said: “The POA has raised concerns over the link between staff reductions and the increased level of violence, self-inflicted injuries, deaths, poor regimes and acts of indiscipline in our prisons, but saving money is the priority of the Ministry of Justice and Treasury.”

Spice from a medical professional’s point of view

Vinny Romano, an advanced paramedic based in Lancaster, said: “There are certain areas where Spice can be more problematic, like Lancaster Farms, where we are called frequently. It is one of the main places we will be called for Spice abuse.

“I never came across Spice until I came to this area.

“Spice has many different names and is often taken with other things.

“Patients can present to us with every extreme, they can be violent

and hallucinate. It tends to affect their communication skills, people can become verbally and phsyically aggressive.

“Symptoms of taking Spice can be extreme anxiety, especially with an existing mental health problem, and psychosis or depression can be made worse.

“At the end of the day you are buying Spice off someone whose morals will be low and it is often mixed with hallucinogenic drugs, you don’t really know what you are taking and what effect it is going to have.

“It can be produced in different countries including Russia and China and it may not be the actual synthetic marijuana but a mixture of all sorts of chemicals.

“It affects all systems, including the neurological system. Some patients have a cardiac arrest and they have gone on to die because we have not been able to reverse the heart attack.”

What is Spice?

Spice is part of a group of synthetic cannabinoids (also known as Black Mamba, Clockwork Orange or Amsterdam Gold), which are chemicals that are made to act like the active part of cannabis, a substance called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

As synthetic cannabinoids act like cannabis the effects – good and bad – are likely to be very similar to cannabis.

Some users will feel happy and relaxed, may get the giggles, feel hunger pangs and become very talkative. Others may feel ill or paranoid. Synthetic cannabinoids are usually sold in ‘herbal’ smoking mixtures. Sometimes these smoking mixtures have been found not to contain any synthetic 
cannibinoids at all!

There are lots of different types of synthetic cannabinoids and a large number have become Class B drugs, which are illegal to have, give away or sell.

You can never be sure what is in a smoking mixture so it’s often hard to tell whether it is illegal or not.