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Prisoners (Drug Addicts)

Volume 130: debated on Thursday 31 March 1988

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what estimate he has of the percentage of prisoners in Her Majesty's prisons who have a drug addiction and who have their habit sustained while they are in prison custody.

The number of inmates reported by medical officers as having some degree of dependence on drugs at the same time of their reception into custody is included in the medical statistics on page 70 of the "Report On The Work of the Prison Service 1986–87" (Cm. 246), a copy of which is in the Library. It shows that 3,051 were so reported during that year. Information is not available on which to estimate how many sustain their addiction while in custody. The House was informed in answer to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett) on 14 December 1987, at column 342, of measures taken in Her Majesty's prisons to prevent and detect illicit drugs.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what treatments and counselling services are provided for those receiving prison sentences who are found to be hard drug addicts;(2) what survey is made of those prisoners serving sentences who have a hard drug addiction; and what clinical and psychological efforts are made to get them off the habit and to attempt to dissuade them from returning to drug taking, either in prison or after their release.

As the House was informed in answer to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett) on 14 December, at columns 342–43, the possibility of a history of drugs misuse is one of the factors medical officers inquire into during the course of their examination of inmates being received into prison custody. Where indicated, medical help in withdrawing is offered, its nature and extent determined by the medical officer's clinical assessment of the individual case. Additionally, at a number of establishments personal support continuing after withdrawal is provided by members of staff or drug counselling agencies from the community.Guidelines prepared in discussion between the Prison Department and probation service for the introduction at all establishments of a more co-ordinated response to drug misusers were issued on 25 September 1987. These describe the responsibility of the Government to ensure the development of a coherent system and the complementary roles of medical and probation officers in the provision of care and support. The use of suitable drug counselling agencies from the community is encouraged. The particular advice offered an inmate prior to discharge will depend upon individual circumstances but progressively as the system is introduced will include the issue of a brief advisory card with which all establishments have been supplied. A copy of the guidelines and card are in the Library.