PRISONERS are being handed photocopies of letters and birthday cards — after traces of the zombie drug spice were found in some of the originals.
Wardens at Durham prison believe relatives and friends put the mind-bending drug on cards and family photos for inmates to smoke.
One con at the category B prison told inmates’ magazine Inside Time: ‘The prison is photocopying all of our mail, supposedly due to one or two people smuggling spice in this way.
‘They are now photocopying photos of our children and families, and if you are lucky enough to be sent a birthday card all you receive is a piece of A4 paper with a picture of the card on it. This is like some sort of bad joke.’
But a prison spokesman said the move was for the safety of staff and inmates.
‘In order to fully prevent mail being sent in contaminated we had to take drastic action,’ he said. ‘We had to balance up the instances where drugs had been taken and prisoners became violent and disruptive as a result, leading to assaults on other prisoners and staff.
‘This also caused disruption to the regime of the prison as healthcare staff spent an inordinate amount of time treating those under the influence of these substances. This has also led to debt and bullying for those who end up with an addiction.’
The original cards would be handed to prisoners on their release, he said.
Spice, a synthetic drug that can put users in a zombie-like state, sells for up to £3,000 an ounce behind bars.
Four wardens at Styal women’s prison in Cheshire collapsed after breathing in fumes from spice. They complained of erratic heart rates and breathlessness.
A source said: ‘It was traumatic for them. Spice is out of control.’
The prison service said it had invested £40million to tackle drug use in jails.