Govt boosts funding for prison drug treatment

The government is pouring extra money into treating prisoners with drug problems.

Ministers announced the additional funding after the UK Drug Policy Commission criticised drug rehabilitation, saying the government failed to collect evidence on what worked.

In joint funding through the Ministry of Justice and Department of Health, the government will increase spending on drug treatments from £12.7 million to £24 million in the 2008/09 financial year.

This will rise to £39 million in 2009/10 and then £43 million the year after, to be spent on clinical drug treatment.

Public health minister Dawn Primarolo said the money would create better quality and more consistent drug treatment in all prisons.

“This offers a real chance for offenders to break free from a cycle of drugs and crime,” she said.

Ministers also announced a new national Prison Drug Treatment Review Group. To be chaired by Professor Lord Kamlesh Patel, to will look at how offenders can be helped off drugs and into work.

Prison minister David Hanson said: “Effective drug treatment lies at the heart of reducing re-offending. It directly addresses the harm to individuals, making communities safer and helping offenders to lead law-abiding and productive lives on release.”

The initiative follows a review last year by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, which said the government needed a more strategic, evidence-based approach to tackling drug misuse in prison.

Mr Hanson said Lord Patel’s review would address many of these concerns.

But the government maintains drug treatment is not a failure, with a record number of offenders now engaged in treatment.

Random drug tests of prisoners have revealed a fall in drug use, with 8.8 per cent of tests coming back positive, down from 24.4 per cent in 1996.

But the Drug Policy Commission today said the government had failed to assess what treatments work.

The commission also said prison was inappropriate for many offenders and community orders would “likely be more beneficial” than short-term sentences.

The Conservatives said effective treatment of prisoners was being hampered by prison overcrowding.

Shadow justice secretary Nick Herbert said: “The widespread availability of drugs in prisons must be tackled, better treatment programmes are needed, and there should be more support for short-term offenders on their release.

“However, the inadequacy of current prison regimes does not mean that community sentences in their current form are an acceptable alternative.”