As part of the Government’s ‘harm reduction’ programme, methadone vending machines have been installed in 57 prisons at a cost of £4 million.
The technology will dispense methadone, a heroin substitute, to prisoners who will take it under the supervision of a health professional.
The approach has been criticised by Dominic Grieve, the Shadow Justice Secretary.
He said: “The public will be shocked that Ministers are spending more on methadone vending machines than the entire budget for abstinence based treatments.”
He added: “Getting prisoners clean of drugs is one of the keys to getting them to go straight.”
Mr Grieve continued: “We need to get prisoners off all drug addiction – not substitute one dependency for another. The Government’s approach of trying to ‘manage’ addiction is an admission of failure.”
Methadone-dispensing machines are planned to be eventually installed in half of the 140 prisons in England and Wales.
The machines deliver the drugs to prisoners identified by iris and fingerprint scanning.
In May the Government’s ‘harm reduction’ approach to tackling illegal drug use was dubbed a £10 billion failure.
Kathy Gyngell, of the Centre for Policy Studies, said the approach was trapping people in “state-sponsored addiction”.
In 2008, the Scottish Government said it would drop its harm reduction policy deciding to focus instead on “recovery and helping people live drug-free lives”.
Holyrood estimates that the drug problem costs taxpayers £2.6 billion each year. There are an estimated 22,000 drug abusers on the methadone programme in Scotland.
Professor McKeganey of Glasgow University’s Centre for Drug Misuse Research had attacked the use of methadone in drug treatment.”
He said: “I think far too much [money] is being absorbed by the methadone programme.
He added: “I think we need to refocus where that money is spent. We need to massively increase the availability of residential rehabilitation”.