A policy paper released today by the Centre of Mental health identifies areas and practical examples of how, in a changing and uncertain policy and commissioning landscape, the joint commissioning and delivery of alcohol interventions for offenders in the community might be productively developed.
The report, A Label for Exclusion: Support for alcohol misusing offenders, details the need for restructuring the current procedures put in place for delivering effective treatment to those suffering from alcohol addictions and related illnesses and the potential implications this will have for public health, mental well being, community safety and re-offending, as well as costs to wider society.
Currently the annual cost of alcohol related crime in Britain is £12.9 billion. Without adequately dealing with and addressing the needs of those with alcohol issues entering prison systems this figure will remain unaltered, along with wider societal implications and costs.
Alcohol Concern identifies the single biggest gap in alcohol service provision to be an adequate pathway from prison to community treatment for alcohol dependent offenders (Alcohol Concern, 2010). Across the criminal justice pathway and tiers of provision, alcohol interventions are under-resourced. Inadequate provision at all stages of the offender pathway is further exacerbated by misalignment between health and criminal justice objectives and a lack of equivalence between alcohol and drug service commissioning.
Additionally there is an informational lacuna concerning the evidence of need and outcome measurement combined with what counts as effective service delivery. An important aspect for future development needs to be that of improving wider workforce alcohol awareness within health, criminal justice and allied agencies.
There is a clear need for early intervention and preventative schemes combined with enhanced educational mechanisms to improve the public knowledge and challenge norms and values in relation to alcohol. However, it is essential that those already in need of treatment receive it, in particular those who have been imprisoned and have been released back into society must not be neglected or else they face the real possibility of regression.
From a public health perspective this will help reduce the demand for services and ultimately to reduce alcohol related harm and offending within society.