Call to expand drug treatment in prison

Penal reformers have called on prison bosses to expand treatment provision for drug users within jails and to create drug-free sections for other inmates.

They said, while the situation within the prison system had improved, it was still far from satisfactory, with seven out of ten prisoners who need drug treatment unable to get it.

The Irish Penal Reform Trust was commenting on the publication of research conducted by the State’s drugs advisory body on drug use in jails. The report, detailed in the Irish Examiner yesterday, found very high lifetime, recent and current drug usage among inmates, particularly of cannabis and prescription tablets, such as tranquillisers and sedatives.

A team of researchers, commissioned by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol, found between 68% and 79% of inmates surveyed had taken cannabis in the last year. They found between 24% and 63% had taken benzodiazepines (tranquillisers), depending on the prisons they were in; 10%-38% had taken heroin.

“The situation can be described as ‘improved’ but this does not mean it is now satisfactory,” said IPRT executive director Deirdre Malone. “Seven in ten prisoners who need drug treatment did not receive it, and there are only nine detox beds available across the entire prison estate for a prison population of 4,000.”

One finding in the report, documenting how 43% of inmates who had used heroin said they first did so while in prison, was “particularly worrying” as it compounded the cycles of disadvantage and made rehabilitation post-release more difficult.

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