Lincoln Prison governor says legal highs lead to 'grotesque violence'

Lincoln Prison
Image caption The governor of Lincoln Prison said at least two inmates had nearly died because of "legal highs"

A prison governor said the use of so-called legal highs is a growing problem and causing inmates to be "grotesquely violent".

Peter Wright, who runs HMP Lincoln, said that on two occasions he thought prisoners would die and staff had been injured on another.

He welcomed the announcement of further powers to tackle the problem.

Lincolnshire Action Trust, which works with prisoners, said legal highs were also causing problems for families.

"The consequence we've had so far with legal highs is that prisoners... have been grotesquely violent and staff have to be extremely brave in controlling and restraining prisoners," Mr Wright said.

"But also prisoners who have taken those legal highs have suffered terribly, something akin to an epileptic fit.

"It's been very humiliating for them to be seen under the influence."

What are legal highs?

  • Legal highs are substances which produce the same, or similar effects, to drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy, but are not controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act
  • In many cases they are structurally different enough to avoid being classified as illegal so it is legal to possess and use them.
  • They cannot be sold for human consumption, but are often sold as bath salts or plant food to get around the law
  • Most fall into three main categories: stimulants, sedatives or hallucinogens.

Mr Wright was keen to stress that their use was not widespread but welcomed the announcement by the Ministry of Justice that prisons will receive more powers.

Christina Hall, from Lincolnshire Action Trust, helps rehabilitate prisoners and works with their families.

She said families were being pressured into smuggling legal highs into the prison and had even seen children used to distract guards.

"It may be a threat where [a prisoner says to another prisoner] 'you make sure your partner brings that in' and children are used to do that," she said.

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