Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Prison over crowding fiasco

It seems to have come as a bit of a surprise to the government that they are about to run out of prison places, so all sorts of things are being proposed.

The fact is the writing has been on the wall for years, and nothing has been done. No emergency places brought on line, in fact the prison ship in Weymouth has been shut down.

This is rank incompetence.

What is worse however is that no one in government has looked at dealing with the problem from the other direction which is to reduce offending rates, of which the easiest to deal with is re offending rates. After all you get to talk to a captive audience.

At the last general election the Conservatives proposed a massive increase in drug rehabilitation but inside and outside of prison. This would cost extra money, but could well have removed the need to build more prisons and house more prisoners, saving both government and the economy lots of money.

This government is just a useless clueless bunch of opportunists and idiots.


Ellee said...

Yes, I wonder what Charles Clarke has to say about it, how could he have not known?

Benedict White said...

Well, I doubt he will say much Ellee. He would have to admit some culpability.

I would also be interested what he would have to say of the Police regularly letting illegal immigrants go because the IND can't or won't do anything.

crossland said...

The Gov has massively increased the funding for Drug treatment both in and outside prison, set up arrest referral schemes to divert users into treatment rather than prison and given the police the powers to drug test for key offences.They have also pioneered joint working between police probation and drug treatment to target high offending drug users.
Apart from more resources and funding What exactly are Cameron and Davis raising that isn't being done ?

Ive always presumed the govt kept quiet about its role in radically increasing drug services because like most politicians they fear the public is more authoritarian (like hanging).

Cameron is due praise for his role in the all party commitee re drug classification and helping to 'detoxify' the debate on drug use by not going down the hang em and flog em route. However the Govts record re Drug treatment/rehab while low in terms of media profile is in actual fact pretty impressive compared to previous govt's. Conservatives would do well to check up what it is before entering the drugs policy debate

Benedict White said...

Crossland, have youany facts or figures, or preferrably a URL to llok them up then I can compare them with what was in the Conservative manifesto last time round under Michael Howard, who also recomended a massive increase in drug rehab places from what ever the position was in May 2005.

crossland said...

I'd also recomend the NTA (national treatment agency) and charities like Drugscope and Lifeline.

The focus (and evidence base) for drug treatment nowadays is on community prescribing (methadone ,subutex) rather than rapid detox.
'Rehab' is the most expensive option and tends to appear in peoples minds because of the impact of celebrities and the media.
It tends to be most beneficial for people who have stabilised or stopped their drug use for a significant time (6 months at least )wheras the bulk of drug work is in getting people to that stage.
Research like The NTORS study has been replicated in other countries and showed that spending money on treatment saved anything between five and nine times as much on criminal justice- this was a significant factor in the Govt backing Drug treatment post 2001.

A large number of rehabs were closed down in the Thatcher and Major years particularly as a result of Brian Mulwhinneys (?)Community care act (removed much of the funding) however Conservatives can be proud of introducing needle exchange services in the mid 80's. While this was largely a response to the threat of Blood borne virus's (AIDS mainly) an important and radical step non the less

Benedict White said...

Many thanks Crossland. I will look those up and also later will post details of the actual Conservative manifesto commitments from last time.

crossland said...

That would be interesting, commenting on your Blog has made me realise i dont know the detail of what the Howard Manifesto had in it re drug policy.
Any tips on where you think current Con policy will go ?

Benedict White said...

Right Crossland, found the document. It is in the part of the policy documents issued last time around on Crime. You can down load it here.

Just a couple of extracts from page 9:
Today, 60 per cent of prisoners re-offend within two years of their
release. This includes 75 per cent of male prisoners under 21 and
80 per cent of those between 14 and 17. Prisoners spend only six
hours a week on average in education and training. More than half
of all prisoners take drugs in prison, but only 10 per cent are
receiving treatment for addiction.
New prison places will be built and managed by independent
agencies, including private companies and charitable
organisations. An agency’s success in reducing re-offending by
ex-prisoners will be taken into account when contracts for
managing prisons are awarded.
We will involve the Prison Service, Prison Officers’ representatives,
Probation Boards and the voluntary sector in all discussions on the
future structure of the Prison Service and the construction of new
Zero tolerance should apply just as much inside prison as on our
streets. We will drug-test all prisoners on arrival – and test them
regularly throughout their sentence. And we will ensure that
offenders who commit crime inside prison, against other inmates
or prison officers, will be prosecuted with the full force of the law.
Post-prison settlement
The weeks and months following release from prison are vital in
determining whether the ex-offender will re-offend. There are
already many effective programmes which help former prisoners
as they adjust to life on the outside.
A highly successful example is the C-Far charity in Devon, a
voluntary agency founded by a former Royal Marine, which offers
a ‘one stop shop’ for resettling and rehabilitating 18-24 year-old
persistent offenders following their release from prison. We are
attracted by programmes such as C-Far and will seek to expand
funding for them as resources allow.

crossland said...

An issue with testing in prisons is that Cannabis can stay in your system for up to a month wheras Heroin can be gone in 2 days. The obvious consequence is that when testing regimes are introduced inmates change their drug and often to something worse.

Pretty much all prisons now have a CARATS (drug team)and treatment/detox is available ( or soon will be) for anyone who wants it . That in 2005 the majority of drug using inmates ( 90%) did not do this could be down to 3 main reasons
1.The drug service wasn't in place then.
2.There is a difference between use and dependany - they may not have needed or wanted treatment.
3. They may have needed it but refused .
The third point is the emerging focus of the Govts strategy as this is the group that causes the vast majority of harm.
Offering treatment to the small number of High Harm causing Users (HHCU - around 130,000 of them )has limited take up - hence an increasing convergance between Criminal justice and treatment agencies.
There is also something of this in the Con proposal to send offenders to a 6 month rehab instead of prison. I think this is a good idea in principle but the rehab would have to be effectively a prison to keep them there. If part of an order it would probably result in high numbers of Breaches and a greater drain on police time.

We currently have drug treatment and testing orders which are the community equivalent - they have very low sucess rates ( measured by abstinence)as Drug Dependancy is a high relapsing condition.
The call to increase Rehab places to 25,000 is commendable but taken with the claim to do this instead of increased Substitute prescribing ( currently around 170,000) seems bizarre as it is both more effective and cheaper than rehab.

Interesting that the Manifesto picked up on Methadone as 'State' management of an individuals habit, in actual fact private prescribing also occurs . For Stable individuals their contact with the 'State' is confined to seing their GP every 3 months and regular trips to the pharmacy.
Whether the state a doctor or a drug dealer gives you the drug you are dependant on doesnt make much difference to your dependancy.

The manifesto mentions offering/sending young offenders to rehabs for 6 months . The current cost for under 18 rehabs for 3 months is around £40,000 per person . We are talking about serious amounts of money- there is also a civil liberties issue in that individuals could get stronger sentances (6 months custody effectively)for drug use than say burglary or assault .

With regard to post prison re settlement- this is also already being expanded notably through iniatives like the RAP programme and focus on Prolific offenders that began post 2000.

Overall id say the sentiments to put more money into treatment rather than punishment were good and in line with the evidence base. But other than that it seems quite thin or contrary to current thinking in the drugs field.

The difficulty for Conservatives is that Lab has gone heavily down the treatment and harm prevention route and coverd pretty much every base worth covering. The killer reason for this is the now evidenced fact that its significantly cheaper and more effective than punishment. deviating from Nulab means either going back to punishment ( more expensive) or embracing reform /liberalisation of drug laws .
you can see how politicaly risky that is from the lowering of cannabis to class C.

crossland said...

The drug strategy reports for No 10 chaired by Geof mulgan (part 1) and John Birt (part 2) are required reading.

The govt originaly tried to suppress them but was eventualy forced by Transform and the guardian to publish their findings. they did so on the morning of live8 ( a good day to bury bad news)

Why ? because the findings of Part 1 are explosive in terms of drug policy.
Part 2 effectively ignores the findings and expands on the coercive treatment agenda . you can see where some of the 2005 drugs act came from and it gives a rough idea of what Nulab will focus on re drugs policy.

Bear in mind that Transform's agenda is toward decriminalisation and legalisation (they are pretty open about that )but this is a link to their summing up of the strategy papers and the papers themselves