Friday, 7 October 2011
Drugs in Prisons - a Scandal!
One of the biggest scandals in our justice system is the widespread use and availability of drugs in UK prisons. From Wormwood Scrubs to Sheppey - prisons across the country are failing to prevent illicit drugs from entering facilities which should be focusing on breaking the cycle of reoffending.
55% of those entering prison have been reported to have a serious drug problem. One in five men and fewer than one in ten women reported using either cannabis, heroin, methadone, amphetamines, crack or cocaine for the first time behind bars. In short, men and women are arriving clean and leaving addicts. If our prisons are to be taken seriously and to be effective at reforming inmates, it is vital the Government takes steps to address the culture of drug-use which has gone unnoticed for so long.
I have urged the Minister for Prisons and Probation, Crispin Blunt MP, to take greater steps to ensure that those who arrive in prison clean do not leave as addicts. He agreed that “we must use all means possible, in a multi-faceted way, to address the problem, and provide safe places in prison, at the very least, for those attempting to recover from drug addiction.” He explained that the Government have begun developing drug recovery wings. These wings will provide intensive support to inmates during the early stages of their recovery from addiction and will place a strong emphasis on connecting offenders with community services so they can live drug-free on release. Through supporting prisoners to rebuild relationships with their families, find a home and a job, the Prison Service could equip them with all the tools for success.
Time inside prison presents a remarkable opportunity to focus on recovery and coming off drugs. Sadly, crime and drugs go hand in hand – habits have to be paid for. Parliamentary Questions I have submitted show that, under the last Government, Thanet became a centre for re-homing ex-convicts and so this is an issue which is very much relevant us locally. For my part, I will be arranging a meeting with the Prison Probation Service to discuss how they can help prisoners get clean before release. But I will also be increasing the pressure on them to ensure Thanet is not seen as a “destination of choice” for those being released from prison and have no local connection with the area. This has got to stop.