MPs say treatment orders are misused

    Drug treatment and testing orders should be better targeted at
    offenders who genuinely want treatment rather than being used as a
    “get out of jail free card”, MPs said last week.

    According to a report by the House of Commons public accounts
    committee only 28 per cent of orders started in 2003 reached full
    term or were revoked early because the offender had made good

    Even this, however, may be an overestimate since there is evidence
    from Leicestershire and London that these figures include a large
    proportion of offenders whose orders expired before earlier
    breaches could be dealt with.

    Cost savings associated with the orders may also have been
    over-emphasised. Although the average cost of one is just
    £6,000, an average completed order costs £21,000 compared
    with £30,000 for an equivalent period of time in prison.

    The report finds that probation teams often do not give those on
    orders the required contact time and drug tests.

    Although offenders who completed the full order still had a 53 per
    cent reconviction rate, this compared with 91 per cent for those
    who did not.

    Chair of the public accounts committee Edward Leigh said: “Better
    use of the time between arrest and sentence would ensure that the
    offender has a real intention of engaging in treatment and doesn’t
    just want to collect a ‘get out of jail free’ card.”

    A spokesperson for Drugscope agreed there should be an assessment
    of whether a treatment order would benefit an individual before
    sentencing. She welcomed the report’s acknowledgement of the flaw
    in linking treatment with punishment.

    “Judges feel they need to be tough because a crime has been
    committed, so the orders are often made difficult to adhere to,”
    she said. “People on them are almost being set up to fail.”

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