Prisoners should not be dictating the Government’s policy on drug treatment for inmates, the author of a devastating new report has warned.
Max Chambers has blamed the Integrated Drug Treatment System (IDTS), which will cost taxpayers £44.5 million in 2010/11, for fuelling a dramatic increase in the frequency and length of prescriptions for methadone and other similar drugs.
Critics have argued that the money would be better spent helping prisoners get drug-free.
The report, entitled Coming Clean, shows that over 45,000 inmates were placed in drug programmes, many lasting at least three months in 2008/09, and this figure is expected to reach 73,000 by next year.
Max Chambers, the report’s author, said: “The way the previous government approached the problem of drugs in prisons has clearly failed.
“It had become the easy option for prisoners’ habits to simply be maintained by the state, with little effort made to properly address their addictions.
“The change of Government is a real opportunity for the Department of Health to come clean about the mismanagement of the Integrated Drug Treatment System (IDTS).
“We need much more focus on abstinence-based treatments that work and above all we need ministers, not prisoners, to be dictating Government policy.”
IDTS is in the process of being rolled out in English prisons.
A spokesman for the Department of Health defended the scheme, saying: “Clinical guidance recommends that prisoners jailed for more than six months should not be maintained on methadone unless there are exceptional circumstances.
“All treatment whether in or outside prison should be aimed at getting people off drugs and maintenance can be part of that programme.
“The IDTS is being brought in across prisons to provide evidence-based treatment tailored to the needs of the offender. It is currently the subject of a rigorous and extensive four-year prison research programme.”
Coming Clean, compiled by the independent think-tank Policy Exchange, also revealed that a staggering one in six inmates are being prescribed methadone or another heroin substitute on a daily basis.
The report, which was based on a survey of 700 inmates from prisons across England and Wales, also revealed that one in three prisoners have used drugs while in jail.
In April the head of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said that drug addicts should be given free heroin on the NHS to stop them from turning to crime.
Peter Carter, who made the comments at the RCN’s annual congress, claimed that making heroin available would reduce crime as addicts would not need to steal to fund their habit.
And in February Prof Neil McKeganey warned that Scottish addicts who receive methadone as a heroin substitute but are still hooked on the harder drug are proof the system is failing them.
His comments followed the case of a 34-year-old man who had received methadone for free from the state for nearly 20 years, despite admitting he had never given up heroin.
Prof McKeganey, a drugs expert, said: “Cases such as these, involving people who have been on methadone for such a long period of time, demonstrate the need for serious questions to be asked about what possible benefit the methadone programme has done for them.