New data obtained by Revolving Doors Agency under Freedom of Information legislation shows that 3 in 5 (60%) of people sent to custody for less than 6 months report a drug or alcohol problem on arrival at prison.
Previous data, which showed only the overall rates for all sentence lengths combined, found 28% to have a substance misuse problem on arrival (HMI Prisons Thematic report). [1,2]
These new figures expose the gap between people sentenced to prison for longer periods of time following more serious offences, and a group often called ‘the revolving door’ who commit persistent low level offences such as theft and non-violent drug offences, driven by their addiction and other challenges in their lives such as homelessness or mental health conditions .
The rate of drug and alcohol problems reported by people serving short prison sentences exposes the need for a radical new approach. Change is backed by the public; a recent independent survey commissioned by Revolving Doors found that 3 out of 4 people think that those with drug or alcohol problems belong in treatment rather than in prison.
Further new data, again obtained by Revolving Doors, shows the reoffending rate for prison sentences is 68% - higher even than those on sentences of less than one year.
This stark evidence of the current failing approach comes at the same time as Revolving Doors publishes a report on the critical role of Police and Crime Commissioners in tackling substance misuse. At the same time, in England and Wales, drug-related deaths are at record high.
The report explores how Commissioners are addressing the issue of drug and alcohol problems amongst people who come into repeat contact with the police and criminal justice system due to their multiple problems. The report identifies the ground-breaking work of Police and Crime Commissioners in Durham and the West Midlands to break the cycle of crisis and crime by treating substance misuse as a public health issue. Others, such as the Police and Crime Commissioners for Surrey and Gloucestershire, are tailoring support to often overlooked groups, such as young women and girls who are at risk of victimisation; veterans at risk of entering the criminal justice system; and complex drinkers.
1 Thematic report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons (2015) Changing patterns of substance misuse in adult prisons and service responses, p.29. https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/wpcontent/uploads/sites/4/2015/12/Substance-misuse-web-2015.pdf
2 Previous data is based on HMI Probation surveys. The newly published data from MOJ is based on the custody screening tool – both rely on self-identification of need.
3 The 2015 HMI Prisons report also found that people with mental health conditions reported higher levels of drug or alcohol problems on arrival at prison.
West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, David Jamieson, said:
Durham Police, Crime and Victims' Commissioner Ron Hogg said:
Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner, David Munro, said: