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Launch of Counselling and Prison Based Drug Addiction Project

24th September 2009

A report on counselling and prison-based addiction treatment in Limerick prison was today launched by Bedford Row Family Project, based in Limerick.

The research was carried out in Limerick Prison by a team of researchers from Dublin City University's School of Nursing, in collaboration with The Irish Prison Service, the Health Service Employers (Mid-Western Region) and the Bedford Row Family Project.

The report states that more than 50% of prison populations across Europe have a history of drug use prior to entering prison, indicating that there is a real need to address drug use in society before, during and after imprisonment.

In the context of Limerick prison, there is no systematic coordinated assessment of individual's drug use or treatment needs on entering prison. This hinders the provision of effective treatment programmes for prisoners. Access to treatment in prison was sporadic, as evidenced by a lack of a coordinated approach to the provision of counselling services for drug users. Consequently, prisoners and prison staff found it difficult to identify the services that were available.

The report also highlights the lack of a coordinated approach between release from prison and engagement with addiction services.

At the time of conducting the research, there was no evidence of matching prisoners to appropriate psychotherapy interventions. As a result, prisoners who were able to access counselling showed a lack of faith in the quality of service being provided. Prisoners also felt there was no incentive to stop using drugs while in prison.

Gerry Moore of the DCU research team said, "It is important to bear in mind that there is a growing trend in the consumption of drugs in the general population. In the case of prisoners, drug addiction is a problem before they enter prison. The Prison Health Care Service and agencies involved in the welfare of prisoners are keen to see the introduction of addiction treatments and services to improve the quality of life of the prisoners and of their families".

According to Jim Sheehan, Chairperson of the Bedford Row Family Project, "It is disturbing in the picture it presents of the depth and gravity of the drug problem within Limerick Prison and of the sense of despair this can and has generated within the prison community as a whole. It is hopeful in that its findings point to a range of very concrete steps that need to be taken if any model of counselling offered within prison-based addiction treatment is to have a chance of proving effective.

Source: Dublin College University (2009).

See link:  http://www.bedfordrow.ie/research.html 
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