Those of you not from my historic East Midlands hometown of Nottingham might not know that HMP Nottingham is considered one of the worst prisons in the country. Unfortunately, the days of the Sheriff of Nottingham riding in to put ne'er-do-wells in their place with a well-aimed arrow or a well-crafted put-down are long gone.
These days, instead of bandits and heroes, we have people smuggling drug-laced books about wizardry and witchcraft into prisons so the inmates can smoke them. Seriously. That actually happened.
Someone snuck a copy of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire sprayed with "a psychoactive substance similar to Spice" into HMP Nottingham and some inmates smoked it up to get high.
Spice -- also known as Black Mamba, Bliss, Bombay Blue, Fake Weed, Genie, K2, Moon Rocks, Skunk, Yucatan Fire and Zohai, apparently -- is a chemical substance a bit like weed but often much stronger. It's sprayed onto things like plant leaves to be smoked, or in this case, copies of books about boy wizards.
The drugs were spotted by a new scanning machine bought as part of an effort to improve the prison, but it was too late -- 400 pages were already missing, presumed smoked. The BBC reports that they'd have been torn into strips, with each one going for about £50. That's more than the street value of Spice, but obviously in prison you've got a captive audience (literally).
HMP Nottingham is one of the ten most "challenging" prisons in the country, ones so bad that Prisons Minister Rory Stewart has said he'll step down if he can't sort them out. Nottingham is apparently considered as problematic as the notorious Wormwood Scrubs in London, which has been home to delightful humans like Ian Brady, Charles Bronson and -- brace yourselves -- Leslie Grantham.
HMP Nottingham has no such famous inmates, but it does have a reputation for high deaths, including one particularly bad month where five prisoners died.
In those depressing circumstances, can we entirely blame the inmates for getting some light reading material brought in? Well, yes we can, because Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is plenty good enough without the need for psychoactive tripping. Seriously, imagine being off your face during the TriWizard Tournament scene. Terrifying.
Main image (not of the prison book, we might add): ;Deirdreamer via Flickr CC.