New figures have laid bare the “harsh reality” of the number of inmates going into a north-east prison on illegal drugs.
Data released by the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) shows 63% of criminals admitted to HMP Grampian over the month of November last year tested positive.
And despite security measures aimed at minimising access to substances in the facility, 24% of inmates tested leaving the jail were also shown to have used drugs.
Of the 29 people tested while leaving the prison, seven people tested positive.
Scottish Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said he was not surprised to find that some prisoners had substance misuse problems but said it was “disappointing”.
He said: “I think the important thing is that prisoners receive support for drug use, mental health and other issues so the scale of the problem can be reduced.”
The statistics showed improvements in the numbers of people testing positive for substances such as cannabis, methadone, opiates, cocaine and amphetamines compared to the previous year.
In November 2016, 81% of inmates were admitted after taking substances and 26% provided postive samples on the way out of the building.
Liam Kerr, Scottish Conservative justice spokesman, said: “People may be surprised at the number of prisoners on drugs but the harsh reality is that substance abuse is directly linked to many other criminal acts.
“The challenge for prisons like HMP Grampian is to get offenders off drugs once they are remanded or sentenced as part of the rehabilitation process.
“The Scottish Prison Service staff work in difficult environments with very large numbers of people who are on drugs when they come in – they should be commended where they are successful in reducing drug use.
“However, there is still a huge problem with the availability of illegal substances in jails.”
But David Liddell, CEO of the Scottish Drugs Forum, a charity which aims to improve Scotland’s response to drug use, said the figures indicated lower levels of drug addition compared to prisoners being admitted to some other jails.
The figures show that 62% of the 53 inmates leaving HMP Perth tested positive, with almost a quarter of the samples involving opiates.
He said: “The figure for opiates is more likely to be an indication of the number of people going into prison with a drug problem.”
A Scottish Prison Service spokeswoman said significant investment will continue being made and that ‘robust security measures’ are in place.
She said: “Intelligence-led searches, together with extensive use of the tactical dog unit, are central to combating the threat of illegal commodity to the prison environment and the wider community.”