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Killing Time – The Prison System & Spice

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Privatization and public spending cuts has seen the prison system become something of a crisis. Riddled with synthetic drugs such as Spice what is really going on?

A prisoner at Kent prison was killed after an overdose on Spice, a mixture of herbs and shredded plants and sprayed with chemicals that is also called K2 or ‘synthetic marijuana’.

Unlike marijuana, Spice can be incredibly deadly. Spice-related issues are specifically pertinent in prisons around the United Kingdom where reports say they lead to an increase in violent behavior.

Ten of Britain’s prisons were recently chosen to receive investment in efforts to counter drug trafficking and other issues. The Prison Ministry has set aside 10 million pounds for the entire project though and sources say the investment isn’t strong enough to counter an endemic problem like Spice.

“It’s too little too late, the prison system has been in crisis now for many many years due to austerity cuts and that’s what’s seen the dramatic rise in violence,” Glyn Travis, Assistant General Secretary at the POA told Sky News.

Spice is often called ‘synthetic marijuana’ but the truth is the name is a misrepresentation of what sort of impact Spice has. The chemicals in Spice are similar to THC, the psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana, but they are 50 to 100 times more concentrated. Spice is usually produced in Asian laboratories and often ordered online.

spice prison

Differentiating between Spice and marijuana isn’t difficult – Spice tends to have a chemical order and is a looser collection of herbs and shredded plants unlike the more cohesive marijuana. But people tend to choose Spice because it’s cheaper to buy. This means it tends to affect the lower margins of society, including prisoners and the homeless.

Additionally, Spice’s ingredients don’t show up on drug tests. This makes it ideal for probationers, military personnel, athletes, and parolees, CNN reported.

Depending on the concentration of the chemicals, Spice can have such a strong effect that it renders users impaired and unresponsive. Some have compared users really high on Spice to Zombies.

“Everywhere you turn, inmates are walking around like zombies,” officer Keith Raimundo, who quit working at a prison in Miami in June, told the Miami Herald. “Every other inmate coming into the chow hall is high.”

In the past, Spice was sold legally in shops. But enough troubled instances quickly fixed that. Spice is now not sold over the counter in the US or the UK. Instead, it’s ordered online directly from factories or on the street.

“What’s happening now is, it’s more trafficking over the internet, where the dealers and cartels can purchase the substances via the internet and then sell them through the more traditional street dealer type of scenarios,” Mike Baumann, chief of the Designer Drug Research Unit at the National Institute on Drug Abuse told CNN.

And the effects have been serious. Over 100 cases of overdose have been reported in New Haven, Connecticut alone according to CNN. In central Illinois, near Chicago, 56 cases of severe bleeding was tied to Spice. A further 33 incidents of Spice-induced collapsing were reported in New York City. All those numbers are highs for the drugs. And if more attention isn’t given to this serious issue the victims suffering from the impacts of Spice will only grow and become more severe.

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Justin Olivier Salhani
Justin Olivier Salhani

Justin Olivier Salhani is a writer, journalist, creative and amateur footballer based in Milan, Italy. He's the founder of Guerrilla FC; a creative collective/streetwear brand inspired by football and the creative director at lowsocks creative, and managing editor of Latterly Magazine. He's particularly into the intersection of where streetwear and football meet and how the two cultures inspire one another. He was previously based in Washington, DC and Beirut, Lebanon.

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