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Volume 461: debated on Tuesday 19 June 2007

23. How many prisoners left prison with a drug or alcohol dependency problem in the last 12 months. (143368)

Defining and assessing dependency is not straightforward, and records are not kept on the numbers leaving prison with drug or alcohol dependency. A comprehensive treatment framework is in place to support prisoners with a drug problem, with a range of services available for those with an alcohol problem.

It is a shame that the Government are not able to provide those statistics, because one in five people going into prison have a drug dependency problem. Many of them then have treatment in prison—detox and rehab. They start their treatment regime and then, when they leave prison, they go to the back of the queue and lose out on all the benefits that they might have experienced if they had been able to continue their treatment. If we are to tackle recidivism, is it not important that we ensure continuity of treatment for those people?

My hon. Friend makes an important point, and I appreciate the work that he does in his community to try to tackle drug use. He will know that prisoner health care has been transferred to the national health service through the primary care trusts, and there are now end-to-end programmes for people with drug problems. We have also seen a 997 per cent. increase in spending on drug problems.

May I make a helpful suggestion? Too many prisoners leave prison still addicted to class A drugs, and then reoffend. What about moving prisoners coming to the end of their time in prison into an established residential drug rehab centre for the balance of their sentences? That would save money and be much more effective. It would be cheaper than prison, and cost the country much less in the long term.

Again, I appreciate the work that the hon. Gentleman does in our courts and criminal justice system. It is important that we look at what works. As I said, there has been a 997 per cent. increase in spending on drug treatment. We are trying to find the best way to stop people taking drugs, and we believe that using the NHS is an appropriate way forward. We are also looking at what providers in the voluntary sector can do, and at what is best practice in this area, but I shall be happy to consider the suggestion that the hon. Gentleman has made.