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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