Prisoners should be helped to overcome heroin addiction instead of being parked on methadone, the Justice Secretary has said.
Writing for The Daily Telegraph, Dominic Raab said that prisons should be a place where the goal is to get “totally drug-free, not just languishing indefinitely on drug substitutes”.
Half of offenders have a drug problem, with heroin and cocaine addicts responsible for about two-thirds of shoplifting and almost half of burglaries.
The long-term vision for prisons outlined in the Prisons Strategy White Paper includes a “zero-tolerance” approach to drugs and aims to rebuild “drug-free lives”.
Treatment should help inmates move “towards abstinence” throughout their time in the system and beyond.
The Justice Secretary said abstinence-based treatment plays a critical part in breaking the cycle of addiction and methadone should only be used with the aim of breaking the habit completely.
“Otherwise, we risk simply replacing one addiction for another.”
Forty-five prisons across England and Wales have set up units to incentivise abstinence from drugs with the goal of reaching 100 by 2025.
The Government is also planning 18 drug recovery wings offering six months of intensive abstinence-based treatment to break reliance on methadone and other dangerous substances.
Prisoners will receive extra time out of their cells for education and work opportunities in exchange for making progress towards getting clean.
Raab expressed his hope that the “new drug-free units and drug recovery wings will help prisoners tackle their addictions, including to opiate substitutes like methadone, in turn cutting their risk of reoffending and creating safer streets”.