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Drug Use in Prisons

Volume 685: debated on Tuesday 8 December 2020

Justice colleagues work closely with our Health partners, and since April 2018 a national partnership agreement on prison healthcare in England has been in place. Tackling drugs is a priority within that agreement. In April last year, we published the national prison drug strategy, which focuses on three strands: tackling drugs in prison by restricting supply, reducing demand and helping to ensure that we turn people’s lives around by building recovery from drugs and substance misuse.

I know that the Lord Chancellor and his Department have previously made known their support for the Prisons (Substance Testing) Bill, led by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Dame Cheryl Gillan). Given that the Bill would make such a difference in this area, will my hon. and learned Friend reaffirm that support today and give an indication of the timescale according to which we might expect the legislation to appear?

I am so glad that my hon. Friend has raised this question, because we wholly support the Bill introduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Dame Cheryl Gillan). It is going to help us to tackle illicit substance misuse and help people to get their lives back on track by identifying who is taking drugs and how we can better support them. I am pleased to note that the Bill is scheduled for consideration on Report and Third Reading on 22 January, and, should it receive Royal Assent, we will be implementing the provisions at the earliest opportunity.

As the Minister will be aware, it is equally as important to ensure that there is proper rehabilitation and support on substance dependency when people are released from prison. That is equally important in ensuring that we break the cycle of reoffending, but, far too often, arrangements are not in place adequately to support people once they are released. What can she do to reassure me that the Government are taking this issue seriously and will put in place better arrangements to support substance misusers with dependency issues once they are released from prison?

My hon. Friend raises a really important question. We are doing a number of things, and I shall highlight two of them. First, as I mentioned, in relation to our probation services, we are getting that help to people earlier, so that a probation officer will be working with a prisoner on his or her release at an earlier stage, so as to help them to get that support organised in the community. The second thing that we are doing, working closely with NHS England, is rolling out our Reconnect service. That service links up the healthcare in the prison with the healthcare in the community, which are not always aligned. The Reconnect service is being rolled out across the country.