Prison drug services are below minimum standards, says think tank

Treatment programmes for drug-using offenders in UK prisons frequently fall “well below acceptable minimum standards”, the UK Drug Policy Commission said yesterday.

UKDPC, an independent think-tank on drugs policy, argued that community sentences were more beneficial than imprisonment for offenders who have been convicted of drugs offences or less serious crimes, in the first review of programmes for drug-using offenders.

It found that “too many prisons” were failing to adhere to best practice clinical guidance and standards or identify problem drug users on entering detention.  The think-tank also raised concerns about the effectiveness of continuity of care in prisons and with community services before and after imprisonment.

Quality programmes

Dame Ruth Runciman, chair of UKDPC, said: “The evidence overall suggests that following a focus on getting numbers into programmes, equal attention should now be given to ensuring programmes are of a consistent and high quality.”

The review, Reducing Drug Use, Reducing Reoffending, called for a wider range of services to meet the diverse needs of drug-using offenders, increased use of community sentences, and access to information on the success rates of different Criminal Justice System interventions.

Yesterday, the government announced it would increase funding for clinical drug treatment in prison from £12.7m to £24m in 2008-9, £39m in 2009-10 and £43m in 2010-11.  It has also set up a national Prison Drug Treatment Review group, chaired by Prof Lord Kamlesh Patel, who also is a UKDPC commissioner.

In response, prisons minister David Hanson said: “Effective drug treatment lies at the heart of reducing re-offending. It directly addresses the harm to individuals, making communities safer and helping offenders to lead law-abiding and productive lives on release.”

More information

Prison Drug Treatment Review group

UK Drug Policy Commission

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