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Drive to cut drug supply and use in prisons

Prison drug find rate rises 23% in a year

Adrian O'Dowd

Thursday, 26 July 2018

A new approach to reduce the supply and use of drugs in prisons including help from specialist healthcare professionals is proving to be successful.

News of the positive impact of an ongoing pilot scheme in one prison was issued today at the same time as new figures from the Ministry of Justice were released.

The new statistics for England and Wales showed that there was a 23% increase in find incidents of drugs in prisons across the country between the year ending March 2017 and March 2018 – a rise from 10,666 incidents in the previous 12 month period to 13,119 incidents.

In addition, ignoring new psychoactive substances, 10.6% of random mandatory drug tests were positive, which is the highest level since the year ending March 2006. Including the new psychoactive substances, the rate was 20.4%.

Justice secretary David Gauke hailed the success of an ongoing £9m pilot at HMP Holme House in County Durham which is tackling the issue of drugs in prison and helping offenders keep away from drugs in the long-term.

The Drug Recovery Prison (DRP) pilot at HMP Holme House adopts a wide-ranging approach and is jointly funded by the Ministry of Justice and NHS England. It involves tightening security to stop drugs entering the prison while helping offenders break their habit of substance abuse.

The increased security has seen investment in new drug detection equipment, including scanners and extra sniffer dogs, while specialist healthcare teams have been drafted in to help prisoners kick their habit.

The three-year pilot, which began in April 2017, has led to a rise in drug seizures in the prison and an increase in the number of offenders in education and work, said Mr Gauke.

“Drugs fuel a cycle of violence and self-harm and prevent offenders from starting the process of rehabilitation that can ultimately lead to employment and a life free from crime,” he said.

“To break that cycle we need an innovative approach, and that’s what this pilot offers - not only stopping drugs getting into prison but helping offenders break the habit for good.

“We do not underestimate the scale of the task, but our aim is to make prisons places of safety, security and decency where offenders have a genuine chance to turn their lives around.”

Mr Gauke said the good practice and lessons learned from the pilot will be shared among all prisons.

Minister for mental health and inequalities Jackie Doyle-Price said: “Too often offenders are stuck in a cycle of offending, fuelled by drug addiction. The only way this will change is by improving the health of our offender population, supporting them to stop using drugs, both in and out of prison.

“The support being provided through this pilot could change the course of someone’s life, rehabilitate them back into society, reduce repeat offending - and ultimately make them turn their backs on crime for good.”

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