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Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Coming Clean

Coming Clean

By accident or design, the drug misuse that fuels so much of the crime in our communities is being allowed to continue inside prison walls. The true scale of drug misuse is not being properly measured, the ways in which drugs get into prisons are being ignored and drug treatment programmes are failing to get prisoners drug-free, because maintenance programmes and opiate substitutes have become the easy option.

As our report, Coming Clean, argues, the Prison Service needs to be up-front about the issue of staff corruption and a long-term, well-resourced plan for dealing with it needs to be put in place quickly. Proper analysis and recording of how drugs are smuggled will allow guesses to be replaced by facts and will compel the Prison Service to analyse which routes are the most prevalent and effective. In addition, Mandatory Drug Testing needs to be replaced so that the Government has a much better idea of how individual prisons are performing, and of the national picture. Mobile phone use is a growing problem and official figures seriously underestimate the extent to which phones are being smuggled. But tackling this will require a recognition that mobile phones are also used for social purposes: problem mobile phone use can only be dealt with if steps (such as in-cell telephony) are taken to improve prisoners’ contact with their families.

Curbing the supply of drugs and mobile phones will only deal with part of the problem; getting addicts clean and prepared for release is just as crucial to reducing reoffending. To achieve this, drug treatment programmes need to be refocused so that methadone is no longer the first port of call, but instead, acts as more of a last resort where there is a real risk of a short-sentenced prisoner overdosing and dying on release. Clinical guidance should properly reflect the fact that a prison sentence is a chance to get drug-free, not an opportunity to be wasted simply because continuing maintaining a prisoner’s addiction is easier than tackling the underlying causes of offending.

These changes could make a real difference, but they will require a degree of honesty about what has gone wrong and some courage in taking the necessary steps to put things right. If the Prison Service comes clean, prisoners could start to get clean, ending the invidious cycle of addiction and acquisitive crime - and making Britain a safer place.

Max Chambers is a Research Fellow in Policy Exchange's Crime and Justice Unit.


If as it is reported that £100m of drugs are smuggled into prisons, and I would not challenge the figure, then you need to take it into account that the prison drug dealers cut this x 10 prior sale to inmates. This means that the £100m is turned into a ten fold profit. It's big business.

It has also been reported, in the US, that one prison guard earned $100,000 from smuggling mobile phones into prison. Once again, this is big business.

The MoJ has stated that it believes there are 1,000 corrupt prison officers. In my view, this figure can safely be doubled.

Personally, I do not see prisoners having mobile phones as a problem. Not all use them to arrange drugs deals or hits on gang members outside. There is the issue of BT charging prisoners 7 x the rate it charges people outside to use public phones. For prisoners, it makes economic sense to cut out BT from the equation.

Had the prison authorities not made such a big deal out of prisoners smoking cannabis, and penalising them heavily, then they would not have turned to heroin to lessen the chance of discovery during a MDT. Cannibis stays in the system for up to 28 days whereas heroin is gone within 36 hours.

1 comment:

C. lalis said...

Exactly saying this that by accident or design, the drug misuse that fuels so much of the crime in our communities is being allowed to continue inside prison walls.