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Prisons: Drugs

Volume 488: debated on Wednesday 25 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what progress has been made in the provision of drug treatment in prisons following the establishment of the Prison Drug Treatment Strategy Review Group in 2008. (256393)

The Prison Drug Treatment Strategy Review Group reports jointly to the Ministry of Justice and the Department of Health. Work on the review started in September 2008 and is expected to take two years to complete. The remit of the Group will be to consider the PricewaterhouseCoopers recommendations, agree a single set of priorities and compile national guidance around the streamlining of the commissioning, delivery, funding and performance management of drug treatment for offenders.

My noble Friend Lord Patel has spent a number of months visiting prisons and talking to key stakeholders such as commissioners, treatment providers and service users in order to select membership of the Review Group. In January I announced that he had selected these members and a list was placed in the Libraries of the House. The first meeting of the Review Group will be held on 26 February. The work programme will include the development of minimum standards, outcomes and commissioning systems for drug-using offenders in prisons and those leaving custody.

I expect to receive quarterly updates on progress and will report periodically to the House. A decision has yet to be taken on publication of the final report.

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of using dogs in the detection of drugs in prisons. (256396)

The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) has in place a process to ensure that each prison dog and handler team are assessed annually as to their effectiveness in detecting concealed drugs. Without passing the annual assessment, for which a certificate of accreditation is awarded, dog and handler teams are not permitted to operate.

In addition, the Government have accepted all 10 recommendations contained within David Blakey’s review: Disrupting the supply of drugs into prisons. One recommendation was that NOMS conducts an internal review to determine whether search dogs and their handlers are distributed effectively around the prison estate and that the management processes for handlers are robust. That review is currently under way.