Scottish prisons won’t have room for any more prisoners without more staff to supply inmates with methadone, says the head of the Scottish Prison Service (SPS).
Jails in Scotland could hold an extra 1,400 prisoners if it wasn’t for the high number of inmates needing daily doses of the drug.
One in four of the 1,689 prisoners in Barlinnie, Scotland’s largest prison, is currently on methadone.
The head of the SPS, Mike Ewert, says: “The major constraint in considering the capacity of [the prison] is the capacity of the healthcare staff to deliver methadone in the morning to the inmates.
“That creates a particular bottleneck in the life of the jail.”
Methadone is given to drug addicts as a substitute for heroin.
Labour’s justice spokesman Richard Baker backs the use of methadone in prisons suggesting that prisoners going “cold turkey in an overcrowded environment would be a recipe for disaster.”
But Scottish Conservative justice spokesman Bill Aitken says, “we’ve been a one trick pony for too long”.
“What this underlines is the clear need to do everything possible to get the maximum number of prisoners off methadone. This would free up resources so jails could take more prisoners but just as importantly it would cut crime.”
“Scotland’s jails are awash with methadone, a direct consequence of the chaotic and drug fuelled lives that create crime.”
Experts say the Scottish Government should scrap the methadone programme as drug-free programmes are far more successful in getting addicts off drugs.
The number of methadone prescriptions has risen by 70% in Scotland in the last three years.
The number of addicts who are drug-free after three years on methadone is so low as to be in single figures. It is 10 times less successful than the best residential treatment programmes.