LIFE IN­SIDE OUR OUT OF CON­TROL JAILS Spice deal­ers IN­SIDE prison tar­get lags’ fam­i­lies on the OUT­SIDE

Ex-pris­oner lifts lid on drug epi­demic

The People - - NEWS FEATURES & - By Tom Parry SPE­CIAL CORRESPONDENT

INMATES who get hooked on zom­bie drug Spice be­hind bars are ex­pos­ing their fam­i­lies at home to gangs of debt en­forcers on the out­side.

The deal­ers have con­tacts who mon­i­tor bank ac­counts which rel­a­tives are or­dered to pay the money into.

And if the debt is not paid their rel­a­tive in jail re­ceives a pun­ish­ment beat­ing – which has left some need­ing emer­gency hos­pi­tal treat­ment.

The vi­cious cy­cle of ad­dic­tion and as­saults was re­vealed to the Sun­day Peo­ple by a for­mer in­mate who has served in sev­eral prisons and who has only re­cently been given his free­dom.

Re­formed ca­reer crim­i­nal Alex Ni­cholls, 24 – who was in and out of cus­tody from the age of 14 – spoke out after wit­ness­ing a wave of vi­o­lence.

He re­vealed how the drug is smug­gled in sprayed on to pic­tures drawn by young chil­dren for their dads – pre­cious me­men­toes that are then ripped up and put into roll-ups.

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Spice has brought chaos after sweep­ing through the prison sys­tem be­cause it did not show up in searches.

Alex re­vealed: “Peo­ple get beaten up all the time for not pay­ing debts.

“I re­mem­ber one guy – six of them took him into a cell then beat him re­ally badly. I could hear the screams.

“They ring up peo­ple’s fam­i­lies and get them to send money by bank trans­fer. The deal­ers have phones in their cells to check if it’s been paid.

“Be­fore, you’d pay about £ 10 a gram. In prison you could split that and sell each half for £50. When I was in Peter­bor­ough one guy made about £28,000 in four months.”

The syn­thetic drug – far stronger than the cannabis it was in­tended to im­i­tate – was legally sold in shops un­til the law banned it last year.

Alex de­scribed the drug as “ab­so­lutely dis­gust­ing, nasty stuff”. But he added: “Peo­ple take it be­cause it com­pletely knocks you out. You can’t think about any­thing.”

In one at­tack a man on Alex’s wing had his face slashed open with a ra­zor so that his right cheek flapped down. An­other time he saw a gang hor­ren­dously burn an in­mate with so-called “prison na­palm” – a mix of boil­ing wa­ter a and sugar. Alex, jailed for crim crimes rang­ing from car theft to bur­glary bu and theft from shops, still wears two tags after his re­lease less than a year ago, but is de­ter­mined to change his ways. He served time in prisons in­clud­ing HMP Peter­bor­ough, Chelms­ford in Es­sex and HMP Way­land in Nor­folk. Alex has watched as the Spice epi­demic left over-stretched staff strug­gling to stem the flow of drugs into their jails. He claimed: “Prison of­fi­cers bring it in or it is brought in dur­ing vis­its. “One way is a kid’s pic­ture cov­ered in Spice spray that you tear up.” Alex, from Hert­ford shire, re­vealed vul­ner­a­ble i nmates are given de­lib­er­ate over­doses as their tor­men­tors watch them suf­fer.

He said: “I’ve seen deal­ers make peo­ple keel over, they get a buzz out of it. They’re puk­ing, drib­bling, throw­ing their arms about – they get carted off strapped to a chair.”

Jail deaths linked to Spice and other syn­thet­ics such as Black Mamba have tripled in re­cent years – with 58 prisoners dy­ing be­tween 2013 and 2016.

Alex has joined up with ex-of­fender char­ity User Voice to turn his life around. The group aims to break down bar­ri­ers be­tween con­victed crim­i­nals and so­ci­ety, im­prov­ing re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.

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