A Conservative MP has called for the Government to focus on helping offenders get off drugs completely, as figures showed tens of thousands of drug-addicted prisoners are given legal substitutes.
Andrew Griffiths said a drug-free environment in prison is “vital” for rehabilitation.
He was responding to statistics showing that 29,717 prisoners were on an “opioid maintenance” programme in 2013-14, where they received drugs such as methadone for their addiction.
Griffiths commented: “We should not be using taxpayers’ money keeping addicts hooked in prison. We should have an abstinence programme so they can focus on rehabilitation.”
The MP, who represents Burton and Uttoxeter, said that the Government is “spending too much on methadone dependency and not enough on programmes to get people abstinent and drug free”.
“If we want to rehabilitate offenders, it is vital that our prisons are a drug free environment”, he said.
Griffiths obtained the information via a parliamentary question, which was answered by health minister Norman Lamb.
Lamb said: “Most offenders receiving drug treatment in prison are there for three months or less, either serving short sentences or on remand for a few weeks and not in the system long enough to complete a structured drug treatment programme.”
He also commented that prisoners serving longer than six months will usually “be expected to work towards becoming drug free”.
In 2013 figures showed that methadone killed more people in Scotland than heroin.
Labour’s Elaine Murray MSP said at the time that “for chaotic addicts” methadone “becomes yet another drug used with heroin and alcohol”.