Addressing the presence of drugs and alcohol in the prison system is not a simple, or easy task. While it is unrealistic to expect prisons to be drug and alcohol free, minimising their presence is important to the safe and effective operation of our prisons, and to achieving better health and rehabilitation outcomes for prisoners.
Prison is an ideal opportunity for the State to intervene in the cycle of addiction and drug related crime. Treating addiction amongst prisoners is vitally important, but at the moment many prisoners are not receiving the treatment they need to break this cycle.
Much is done to try to reduce the supply of these substances into prisons. However, as long as prisoners desire them there will continue to be those that attempt to supply, and the risks for both prisoners and staff will remain. Current drugs of choice amplify these risks, as does prison overcrowding.
Prisons already use multiple layers of security to prevent drugs and alcohol from entering prisons, and to identify any that have. However, processes must be rigorously carried out and prisoners’ underlying demand for drugs and alcohol needs to be addressed. While considerable work is done in this area, the Department of Justice needs to increase its focus to be effective. We found that strategic direction is lacking, processes are not followed, approaches need to be evaluated for success, and some prisons need to be better equipped.
My recommendations build upon the Department’s existing practices and focus on practical and achievable actions that reflect the constrained resource environment within which agencies are operating.
Intervening to help prisoners break the cycle of addiction and crime, and become more productive members of society, offers many benefits for prisoners and the community.