The Spice epidemic in Britain’s prisons is so bad that staff are getting accidentally wasted through passive smoking – with one smashing up his home after a shift.
One senior prison officer today said even in non-smoking jails inmates are ripping out pages of the Bible and damaging electrics to fuel their habit.
Mark Fairhurst, who is on the national executive of the Prison Officer’s Association, said officers are starting to fall ill after being daily exposed to the former legal high.
He said several members have needed hospital treatment after collapsing at work.
One turned violent and trashed his home after threatening his wife – leading to three days recovering on a ward.
Even in smoke free jails – such as HMP Dartmoor – prisoners are tearing out pages from the Bible to make roll-ups of the drug which they light by damaging electrics.
He said one way they are smuggling the drugs into jails is by abusing the NHS – faking injuries to pick up supplies left by accomplices in hospital toilets.
Mark, a prisoner officer for 25 years who represents jails in the south west and Wales, said they desperately needed more resources to cope.
Since 2010 more than 7,000 prison staff have been cut – and Mark said they weren’t being given the tools they needed to do the job.
He said: “Spice is a massive issue in every jail in the country.
“It’s got a very distinctive smell. Prison officers either open cell doors and are subjected to passive smoking or are exposed to it on the landing.
“This happens every day while on duty. They are constantly breathing in the fumes and it will affect them.
“We have several instances of staff collapsing and having to go to hospital in an ambulance.
“Others get sick with headaches and feel disorientated and are sent home and told to go to their GP.
“We have even had instances of staff feeling funny at home after a shift and acting aggressively to their families because of the impact of spice.
“One was acting so bizarrely that he turned violent and his wife had to take him to hospital as he started smashing up their home and threatening her.
“It was totally out of character and he was kept in for three days to recover.”
Mark, 48, works at HMP Liverpool but represents jails in the south west as part of his role with POA including Dartmoor, Exeter, Channings Woods and Guys Marsh.
He said what was needed was a national policy to tackle the issue but there was currently nothing in place.
Mark added: “We don’t know the effects long term of working in this environment and there is no policy in place to protect staff.
“We want and we need a national policy on dealing with this.
“There is real concern. People react so differently to it. Some become dead chilled and sleep while others turn violent towards staff.
“We have also had instances of self harm and there was the case that was widely reported where a prisoner cut off his penis and flushed it down the toilet.
“It is just so unpredictable.”
Mark said every single prison is affected and it has been a growing problem for the last two years.
He said more staff were badly needed to stop Spice getting into prisons in the first place.
The most common way is the drug to be thrown over the fence or dropped off by a drone.
But some prisoners are using and abusing the NHS to get their hits.
He added: “There have been instances where prisoners fake an injury or illness and because everything has been contracted out there is no choice but to cover our backs and send them to hospital.
“They use a smuggled mobile phone to sort out a pre-arranged drop off at the hospital and when they go off to the toilet they pick up the drugs from inside the cubicle.”
And he said that even in smoke free jails like Dartmoor, prisoners are finding creative ways to make sure they don’t miss out on their hits.
He added: “In smoke free jails what they will do is rip up pages from the bible so they can roll up a cigarette and smoke it that way.
“They also damage the electrics within the cells as well, just so they can get a light.
“Staff cannot cope. We need to go back to basics. We need to stop calling them residents and rooms and go back to calling them prisoners and cells.
“We need to bring back order, but we need the resources and the support to be able to do this.
“We just need to be given the tools to do our job.
“I have never seen it so bad – and I can not see it getting any better.”