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Prisons (Drug Addiction Services)

Volume 516: debated on Tuesday 19 October 2010

1. What recent discussions he has had with ministerial colleagues on drug addiction services in prisons. (17811)

I have had discussions with Ministers in a number of Departments, including the Department of Health, the Home Office and the Cabinet Office. Those discussions have covered a range of drugs-related topics, including reforming drug addiction services in prisons.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. He will be aware that many prisoners struggle with choosing abstinence over methadone when they want to kick their drug habits, so what action will the Government take to encourage prisoners to take an abstinence-based regimen instead of methadone?

Our policy is that we should move towards abstinence from maintenance, but it is not the practice that we have inherited. The main programme, the integrated drug treatment system, is relatively new and based around National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse models of care, but the effect in practice is much more about maintaining addicts safely than leading them to abstinence. However, there are very good abstinence-based programmes in prison, such as RAPt, and our goal is to challenge offenders to take responsibility for the harm that they have caused and to accept help to come off drugs. We will therefore reshape existing drug services in prisons to establish drug recovery wings that are based on abstinence, free from drugs, motivate change, support rehabilitation and, on release, link offenders into community services that can continue the progress made in prison.

It sounds as if the Minister is going to be pretty rigid in pursuing a policy that, in some cases, will work and be wholly appropriate. In other cases, however, people will fail, and when they do so they will be a problem not just to themselves but to our communities. They will feed organised crime and return to their habits. Surely he accepts and recognises that.

Of course I accept and recognise that. That is the reality of the current position. All too many short-sentence offenders are going into prison, and occasionally they do not have a drug habit but acquire one while they are there. We are failing to rehabilitate drug addicts effectively and, indeed, to address properly alcoholics, in the community and in prison, who are under the sentence of the courts. That is why we will move to a much more output-based system, measuring people by what they achieve rather than simply measuring inputs. Of course, that is a very difficult area, and many people need more than one go—indeed, several goes—at effecting successful rehabilitation from drugs, and of course this Administration acknowledge that.