Irish Penal Reform Trust

Review of Drug and Alcohol Treatment Services for Adult Offenders in Prison and in the Community

20th December 2016

The Probation and Prison Services have published an independent review of the drug and alcohol treatment services available to offenders. The review was done by Anne Clarke and Anne Eustace and published on 20th December 2016.

The review explores what the current provision level is and establishes an evidence based model of effective practice. This is highly important as the majority of adult offenders have misused alcohol or drugs and that this is linked to their offending. The review highlights a number of gaps in the current addiction treatment services available. They are as follows:

  • A lack of specific services aimed at women and women with children;
  • There is a stronger focus on drug than alcohol addiction, which is also a large contributor to criminality;
  • Treatment regimens are playing catch up to the trends in drug addiction, which have lent more towards benzodiazepines and psychoactives rather than opiates;
  • There are a growing number who have addiction problems coupled with mental health issues;
  • There is a need to address the lack of a drug-free environment for those who have quit within the prison estate.

The model for effective treatment as proposed within the review is as follows:

  • A screening process occurs where particular characteristics and issues which a prisoner possess are assessed. The prisoner is then prepared for the change caused by entering into treatment and referred to a programme.
  • The referral needs to be done in a way that takes the individual into account. They must be fully informed and involved in the process, ideally being in touch with the programme’s director directly. All relevant information should be made available to the programme director and any refusals should have the reasons given to the prisoner. Any waiting times for the prisoner’s referral should result in the prisoner being made aware of reasons for this.
  • The prisoner should be assessed to discover the nature and extent of their addiction. Risk factors and reasons for engagement with the rehabilitation should be identified. The assessment should occur on a continuing basis. Adequate time should be given to such assessments and a relationship between the assessor and offender in this instance should be fostered.
  • Care planning should be effectively carried out which engages the offender in a holistic programme which takes into account all of their needs and issues as opposed to just their addiction.
  • Coordinated services should be provided to each prisoner in order to allow for more effective case management. Interagency conferring should occur and the offender’s case should be continually reviewed.
  • Treatment, in the medical and psychotherapeutic sense, should be provided on an ongoing basis. If the offender is in prison then treatment affected by outside programs should have access to the prisoner, in a timely manner. A wide range of treatments should be made available for the diverse needs of offenders with addictions. All information as to aspects of treatment should be disclosed to the offender. Breaks in treatment should be minimised and not discontinued as a punishment.
  • Care planning must continue after the release of the offender into the community. The offender must be prepared for this transition and aftercare should be used coupled with preparation for the prisoner to be able to continue their progress on release.

To read the full review click here.

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