Tackling drugs misuse in prisons must be a priority for the Scottish Parliament, according to a new report.
The document was produced by MSPs on Holyrood’s Criminal Justice Committee.
It sets out a series of proposals to bring about reform in the justice sector.
Amongst those are the aim to avoid any sliding in the timescale for clearing the extended courts backlog created by the pandemic – not expected to be complete until 2025.
The report also recommends making changes to support for victims of crime, including reviewing the victim notification scheme.
A number of roundtable meetings were held by the committee in September and November and submitted its conclusions to the Scottish Government.
Tackling Scotland’s drugs deaths crisis, the report notes, will be “one of the defining challenges in this parliamentary session”.
It read: “A priority issue this parliamentary session should be addressing the problem of substance misuse in prisons.
“It is clear that the misuse of drugs in prisons is rife and more needs to be done both to prevent drugs from coming into prisons and to rehabilitate prisoners who use drugs.”
The committee also indicated it is “vital” that steps are taken quickly to prevent drug-soaked letters being mailed to prisoners.
Committee convener Audrey Nicoll said: “Our inquiries into the Scottish justice sector have exposed once again many deep-rooted problems.
“We know these cannot be solved overnight and there are few easy solutions.
“However, our committee is determined to see progress made in this parliamentary session.
“As a critical friend to the Scottish Government and its justice partners, we want them to use our recommendations to drive forward progress and implement changes.
“We believe we have set out a balanced and proportionate action plan which may go some way to improving the criminal justice sector.
“We’ll be taking stock of progress at regular intervals.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We welcome publication of the Committee’s Report and will give it careful consideration before responding formally.
“Alongside measures to mitigate the on-going impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, we are already addressing many of the issues raised by the Committee through public consultation and by engaging with key stakeholders.
“This includes improving the experience of victims and witnesses, particularly in relation to sexual offending and domestic abuse, addressing Scotland’s high use of imprisonment and remand and ensuring on-going access to justice.
“We will keep the committee updated on progress.”