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A bottle of Methadone mixture stands on the window sill in front of the bars in the  prison pharmacy.
Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

Building recovery from drugs in prison

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My third post on the new prison drug strategy looks at plans to build recovery inside.

Earlier this month (3 April 2019) Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) published its new Prison Drugs Strategy which has been developed to support and complement the main government Drug Strategy published in 2017 and is centred around the same three objectives of restricting supply, reducing demand building recovery. The prison drug strategy adopts a “5P” approach with each of the three objectives focusing on five key areas:

  • People – that prisons have the right staff, with appropriate skills and support
  • Procedural – that prison processes are clear, fair and effective
  • Physical – that prison conditions are safe, clean, decent and promote well-being and recovery
  • Population – that prisoners have positive relationships and engage in constructive activities
  • Partnership – that all the organisations contributing to achieving our aims work together effectively

Two weeks ago, I looked at the strategy’s first objective: restricting supply, last week’s post focused on the second: reducing demand for drugs in prison, this post looks at the final objective, building recovery.

Building recovery

As has been the case with so many things over the last decade, the resources for drug treatment in prison have been cut. Nevertheless, there are a number of initiatives trying to improve treatment inside, driven by last year’s NHS England’s new Service Specification for Integrated Substance Misuse Treatment Services in prisons which aim to bring greater focus to treatment of prisoners using NPS as well as those dependent on heroin and/or cocaine.

The strategy acknowledges that different drugs are more popular with different groups of prisoners in different prisons and that prison governors will need to design their substance misuse treatment to meet local needs.

The strategy also highlights the growing abuse of prescription and pharmacy drugs and sets out new approaches to ensure that this medication doesn’t get diverted into recreational use.

Finally, the strategy raises the very long-standing problem that although large numbers of prisoners do take the opportunity that being in prison provides to tackle their dependence on drugs, less than a third of these continue their treatment on release. The strategy sets out a plan to try and improve continuity of care.

The main activities set out in the strategy to build recovery are summarised in the graphic below.

Thanks to Andy Aitchison for kind permission to use the header image. You can see Andy’s work here.

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