There has been a ‘doubling’ of drug-free wings in prisons, the government has announced. ‘New incentivised substance-free living units’ are now operating in 45 jails in England and Wales, it says, with up to 100 special blocks planned by 2025 alongside special abstinence-based recovery wings.
The incentivised units feature regular drug testing as well as ‘substance misuse courses’, while the government is also investing in up to 18 drug recovery wings where prisoners will receive six months of intensive abstinence-based treatment, it says. The aim of both the incentivised units and recovery wings is to reduce the risk of reoffending, the government states, and ‘will make sure prisons are places where criminals get – and stay – clean while they pay their debt to society, instead of languishing on drug substitutes like methadone which can hinder their rehabilitation’.
The incentives for prisoners include extra time out of their cells and more education and work opportunities, and ‘once they’ve turned their back on drugs for good’ – including any substitution medication – they will have the opportunity to be transferred to a recovery wing. Funding for the incentivised units and recovery wings comes from the financing already allocated as part of the ten-year drug strategy.
A 2020 report from the Reform think tank found that the number of prisoners saying they’d developed a drug problem while in prison had doubled since 2013-14, to almost 15 per cent of all prisoners, with a ‘significant’ impact on levels of violence.
‘We are clamping down on drugs behind bars with tough new security, but we know reducing supply is not enough to break the cycle of addiction and offending,’ said justice secretary Dominic Raab. ‘Our new drug-free units and drug recovery wings will help prisoners tackle their addictions, including to opiate substitutes like methadone, in turn cutting their risk of reoffending and creating safer streets.’