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Urgent reform needed over addiction treatment in prison


Friday, July 3rd, 2009 Urgent reform needed over addiction treatment in prison

A leading prison charity has called for urgent reform to the criminal justice system in England and Wales, following the exposure of fundamental flaws in the way in which offenders with addictions and mental health problems are treated.

The Commission on English Prisons Today has concluded prisons have become “warehouses” where people with mental health problems and those with drug and alcohol addictions are “dumped”.

The Commission came to its damning conclusion in its report, ‘Do Better, Do Less’, following a two year enquiry.

The report’s authors said criminals should be given community punishments instead of short jail terms, with prison budgets being devolved to local communities in a bid to reduce offending.

Cherie Booth QC, the commission’s president, said: “The commission proposes more widespread use of effective community sentences to reduce the use of prison and allow for reinvestment of resources into local communities to cut offending.”

The report added that the money saved by adopting this policy could then be invested in communities which suffer from ‘deprivation and victimisation’ - therefore helping to tackle the problems associated with offending and addiction.

Paul Cavadino, chief executive of charity Nacro said: “We can only cut crime by rehabilitating offenders effectively if we adopt radical solutions.

“This means dramatically reducing our use of prison, ending overcrowding and dealing more constructively with offenders with mental health issues and drug-related problems.”

The report has been published just days after The Prison Reform Trust published its own influential review of the criminal justice system, in which it said that the failure of government to tackle the causes of crime had worsened health and social inequality.

The report found that around 55 per cent of those received into custody are problem drug users, equating to around 39,000 prisoners at any one time.

It also concluded that nearly 63 per cent of sentenced male prisoners and 39 per cent of female sentenced prisoners admit to hazardous drinking which carries the risk of physical or mental harm, and about half of these have a severe alcohol dependency.


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