DDN May 2018

‘It’s a mismatch between prison and
complex needs’

We need a new dialogue and thinking, says police and crime commissioner David Jamieson, talking about his recommendations to divert people away from the courts and into treatment (page 8). ‘Criminalisation of drugs will be looked back on with as much disgust as criminalisation of homosexuality,’ adds former detective sergeant Neil Woods, speaking at the same NNEF event.

We have long heard the call to stop wasting money on the drug war from healthcare workers – those at the sharp end of human suffering and misery. But when the pieces of the jigsaw join with those from the criminal justice, policy and treatment sectors, there is surely enough to complete the picture that health must come first – and that it is politicians’ duty to take account of the evidence.

The prison population has expanded rapidly and institutions are bursting at the seams. Lana Durjava’s study of people who used heroin in prison (page 6) shines a light on the mismatch between incarceration and complex needs. The motivation is to self-medicate, to shut down responses and deaden the pain – summarised as ‘a life of lonely compulsion in a mundane and ruthless environment’. If they are lucky enough to receive treatment, they are still vulnerable to leaving prison without the support, the right medication, or even a take-home naloxone kit to keep them alive.

So where does this ineffectual policy leave us? In the meantime, our prisoner is trying to block out each day more than the last.

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Claire Brown, editor 

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