Offender Management Caseload Statistics 2008 records that 4,429 offenders were received into prison in 2008 following breach of a community order and 5,769 following breach of a suspended sentence order. However, these data cannot be broken down by type of requirement to identify the number of offenders imprisoned following breach of a drug rehabilitation requirement (DRR).1
The imposition of a custodial sentence is one of a range of options available to the courts if they are satisfied that an offender has failed to comply with any requirements of a community order or a suspended sentence order without a reasonable excuse. The Criminal Justice Act 2003 specifies that a court may only impose a custodial sentence following breach of a community order with a DRR where the offender has wilfully and persistently failed to comply with the requirements of the order.
The National Offender Management Service does not collect data on the offenders who have been imprisoned following breach of a DRR. However, the proportion of offenders successfully completing these orders has risen significantly from 28 per cent. in 2003 to 47 per cent. in 2008-09.
While all drug treatment delivered through the criminal justice system aims ultimately for abstinence, drug misuse can lead to chronic relapsing behaviour which may take years to address successfully and often beyond the duration of a sentence or order. No central record is kept of the number of those completing DRRs free from drug misuse. A recent research study2 carried out in the community showed that sustaining heroin and crack cocaine users in treatment is effective at reducing misuse and in a significant proportion of cases leads to abstinence.
Figures from 2007-08 show 85 per cent. of offenders on a DRR being retained in treatment for more than 12 weeks, which is the minimum treatment period reported by the National Treatment Agency and the Drug Interventions Programme as having some impact on drug use and offending.
1 These figures have been drawn from administrative data systems. Although care is taken when processing and analysing the returns, the detail collected is subject to the inaccuracies inherent in any large scale recording system.
2 Marsden, J., et al. (2009) Effectiveness of community treatments for heroin and crack cocaine addiction in England: a prospective, in-treatment cohort study. The Lancet, Volume 374, Issue 9697, Pages 1262-1270.