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Drug Rehabilitation (Prisons)

Volume 526: debated on Tuesday 29 March 2011

We are working with the Department of Health to reshape drug treatment in prisons to sustain a better path to abstinence, not least by addressing a transition from prison to the community. Our proposals to improve the rehabilitation of drug-misusing offenders were published in the Green Paper, “Breaking the Cycle: effective punishment, rehabilitation and sentencing of offenders”, in December 2010, and they include piloting drug recovery wings, supporting the Department of Health in developing payment-by-results drug recovery pilots and reducing the availability of drugs in prison.

I visited Winson Green prison last month and was shocked at the number of drug-addicted prisoners being prescribed methadone. In our system, almost 24,000 prisoners are now maintained on methadone. Does my hon. Friend agree that that undermines opportunities for effective drug rehabilitation in prison?

I share my hon. Friend’s concern about that issue. Methadone has been used increasingly to tackle heroin dependency, and the number of clinical interventions has gone from 21% in 2007-08 to 39% in 2009-10. Although we do not dispute that methadone has a role to play, we agree that drug treatment in prison ought to have a greater focus on recovery and should provide a clearer route to abstinence either in prison or when offenders return to community, and preferably on a pathway that includes both.

I very much welcome the announcement this week about funding for the national liaison and diversion service, which will try to divert people with mental health issues from the prison system. Does the Minister think that, in time, that model could be used to divert people with drug addiction from prison, too?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her endorsement of our policy on addressing mentally ill offenders and delivering on that very substantial element of the Bradley report. There will not be quite the same method of having a liaison diversion service at courts and in police custody suites, but we will be looking at the drug recovery pilots as the model for the future, with local assessment and referral centres that identify the appropriate place for people to get drug treatment in the community.