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Prisons: Drugs

Volume 506: debated on Monday 22 February 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what assessment he has made of the relationship between the supply of illicit drugs into prison and the effectiveness of drug treatment in prisons; and what assessment was made of the merits of including demand for illegal drugs in the remit of the Blakey Review. (316183)

The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) has a comprehensive drug strategy for prisons. It has three key elements that interlink to reduce drug related offending and address individual need:

reducing supply, through security measures and drug testing programmes;

reducing demand, through targeted interventions for low, moderate and severe drug-misusers; and

establishing effective through-care links to ensure continuity of treatment post-release in order to safeguard the gains made in custody.

The overall success of the strategy is evidenced by the reduction in drug misuse in prisons, as measured by random mandatory drug testing. Since 1996-97 the proportion of prisoners testing positive has declined by 68 per cent. In 2008-09 prisons undertook 5.4 per cent. more random mandatory drug tests than in 1996-97. The reduced availability of drugs in prisons provides a firm foundation on which to deliver drug treatment.

NOMS has in place a comprehensive drug treatment framework, based on the National Treatment Agency’s Models of Care, to address the needs of drug misusing prisoners. The interventions available are designed to meet the needs of low, moderate and severe drug misusers—irrespective of age, gender or ethnicity. Since 1996-97 funding for prison drug treatment has increased year on year, and is now over 15 times that of 1997 (total 2009-10 allocation is around £112 million).

On 31 January 2008 the Justice Secretary’s paper, “Prison Policy Update”, set out the steps being taken to tackle drug misuse in prison. Following this the Justice Secretary and the NOMS Director General commissioned two reviews—David Blakey’s review “Disrupting the supply of illicit drugs into prisons” and the Prison Drug Treatment Strategy Review Group led by Lord Patel. The focus of the two reviews was complementary, covering respectively security and treatment issues. Together they addressed the range of issues associated with illegal drugs in prison.