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DrugScope responds to publication of the Green Paper on Rehabilitation and Sentencing

7 December 2010

Today Kenneth Clarke, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, outlined government proposals to reduce levels of re-offending among adult and young offenders in a Green Paper on Rehabilitation and Sentencing. Of particular relevance to the substance misuse sector is a commitment to increase diversion of those with drug, alcohol and mental health problems from prison and into treatment, in recognition of the fact that continuing substance misuse problems, especially drugs, were a key factor in the high level of re-offending.

There was also recognition of the importance of employment and training as key components of recovery. The Green Paper, Breaking the Cycle: Effective punishment, rehabilitation and setencing of offenders will be subject to a 12 week consultation process.

Commenting on the proposals, Martin Barnes, Chief Executive of DrugScope said:

“It is encouraging that the government recognises the importance of substance misuse treatment as a critical element in rehabilitation and diverting offenders from prison.

“Currently 29 per cent of referrals into community drug treatment are referrals from the criminal justice system.It is in the interests of offenders, their families and the wider community to build on this.

“While it is vital that we have a robust drug treatment system within the prison system, the recent Patel Report reviewing prison drug treatment highlighted the problems in delivering effective drug treatment to short stay offenders. But if the intention is to increase the numbers going into community drug treatment, then drug treatment budgets will - at the very least - need to be maintained.”

Summary of the key points addressing drug and alcohol misuse

The section in the Green Paper headed ‘Rehabilitating offenders to reduce crime’ sets out specific proposals to address drug and alcohol misuse of offending. The following summarises the relevant section (pages 24 – 32):

Rehabilitating offenders: supporting offenders to get off drugs for good

“We must ensure that more drug misusing offenders fully recover from their addiction and that they do not take drugs while they are in prison. To achieve this we are proposing to:

  • reduce the availability of illicit drugs in prison and increase the number of drug free environments;
  • introduce pilots for drug recovery wings in prisons;
  • work with the department of Health and other government departments to support the design and running of pilots to pay providers by the results they deliver in getting offenders to recover from their drug dependency;
  • test options for intensive community based treatment;
  • learning the lessons from the approach to managing women offenders and apply them more broadly.”

Drugs in prisons

19% of offenders currently in prison who had tried heroin tried it for the first time in prison.

The proportion of positive mandatory drug tests has declined, but nearly one in thirteen tests are positive.

New technologies to be investigated to tackle drugs and mobile phones in prisons.

The number of drug free wings will be increased.

Drug treatment

Drug treatment in prisons will be ‘reshaped’ with an increased emphasis on recovery and becoming drug free.

The evidence collected by the Prison Drug Treatment Strategy Review Group will be looked at on how to ‘raise the ambition for drug treatment’.

Alcohol abuse to be tackled – exploring how payment by results might be extended to specialist alcohol treatment.

Drug recovery wings

A focus on recovery outcomes: ‘challenging offenders to come off drugs’. ‘Drug recovery wings’ piloted from June 2011.

Four pilots will focus on offenders serving sentences of less than 12 months and there will be up to five pilots for people in prison for longer periods.Progress will be reviewed by June 2012.

Payment by results

The Government will develop an approach which addresses the key areas which the Paper states support recovery: “freedom from clinical independence, reducing offending, and getting a job.”

The approach will include assessment, referral and case management. This will be relevant for all stages of the criminal justice process.

“Payment by results for drug recovery has never been implemented before”: the Government will work with the pilot areas to-co-design the payment by results approach for offenders. Initial pilots will begin in September 2011.

Intensive drug treatment in the community

A range of treatment interventions will be required, varying in intensity depending on the assessed problems:

  • high: residential based programmes, with the expectation that the individual will reside in designated premises and comply fully with the programme;
  • medium: structured treatment, possibly with a short residential element or attendance at a day care centre;
  • low: outpatient treatment, with an individual residing at their own home.

Treatment requirements will be coupled with other community order requirements. The intention is that treatment based accommodation will start from December 2011, subject to funding.

Women offenders

Women offenders tend to be convicted for less serious offences – 44% prosecuted for theft and handling offences compared to 28% for men. Women offenders have multiple and more complex problems related to offending. Over half of women in prison report having suffered domestic abuse and one in three has experienced sexual abuse.

The Green Paper announces a commitment to developing more intensive community-based drug treatment options for women offenders and to tackling all forms of domestic violence, developing concrete proposals to prevent domestic violence and punish offenders.

Consultation questions

Q11. How can we use the pilot drug recovery wings to develop a better continuity of care between custody and the community?

Q12. What potential opportunities would a payment by results approach bring to supporting drug recovery for offenders?

Q13. How best can we support those in the community with a drug treatment need, using a graduated approach to the level of residential support, including a specific approach for women?

Q14. In what ways do female offenders differ from male offenders?

The consultation period ends on 4th March 2011.