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Prisoner drug unit availability a disgrace

Simon Power
National Party Law & Order Spokesman
19 March 2006

Prisoner drug unit availability a disgrace

Drug and alcohol rehab programmes in the prisons system are falling dismally short of what is needed, says National's Law & Order spokesman, Simon Power.

He is commenting on answers to parliamentary questions which show that in the first seven months of the 2005/06 year only 65 prisoners have spent time in a specialist drug treatment unit.

"This is a disgrace. About 83% of our prison population have drug or alcohol problems but only 1%* are in these units so far this year.

"At this rate, fewer prisoners will go through this programme this year than at any time since the Labour Government came into office, and the downward spiral of the past four years will continue.

"And at this rate, they will be lucky to put through 120 people this year - way short of Corrections' target of 174, which was slammed by the Ombudsmen as being way too low.

The Ombudsmen say in their report, dated December last year, '... we find it extraordinary that the Department is to allocate only 174 places to prisoners on residential drug abuse programmes.'

Mr Power says it is time Corrections admitted it is failing dismally in the area of drug rehabilitation at a time when there is a serious 'P' epidemic, and when more and more drugs are being found in prisons.

"Corrections Minister Damien O'Connor has some work to do to get these essential programmes up and running, and he also has more serious questions to answer.

"What explanation is there for the department telling the Ombudsmen that 174 prisoners were expected to attend programmes when months earlier the department had cut the number of places available by closing down the programme at Rolleston Prison?

"We are woefully short of drug and alcohol residential programmes. There are now only two available: one for women, at Arohata, and one for men, at Waikeria. And I understand the Waikeria unit is booked out till 2008.

"Corrections could take some of the $550,000 it is paying for each cell in the four new prisons and divert it into more and better drug programmes."

(* based on prison population of 7,500)


Attachments: Answer to Written Question 996 (2006)

Subject: 00996 (2006) Published - Corrections - Normal Reply

Question: How many offenders spent time in a specialist drug treatment unit in 2005; how does this compare with the previous five years?

Portfolio: Corrections

Minister: Hon Damien O'Connor

Date Lodged:23/02/2006

Answer Text: The Department of Corrections records this information by financial year. For the first seven months of the current financial year (up to 31 January 2006), 65 prisoners have spent time in a specialist drug treatment unit. Figures for prisoners attending a specialist drug treatment unit for previous financial years are attached (full year data). The numbers of prisoners attending specialist drug treatment programmes this financial year will be lower than previous due to the closure of the programme running at Rolleston Prison. This programme ceased in mid-2005, due to concerns over the suitability and quality of the programme. Options for re-allocation of this programme are currently being considered.

Attachment: WQ 00996.Table.doc Date Received: 14/03/2006


Financial Year Number of Prisoners who have attended a specialist drug treatment unit
2004/2005 145
2003/2004 173
2002/2003 242
2001/2002 202

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