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Labour cuts prisoner drug programmes

Simon Power National Party Law & Order Spokesman

26 May 2006

Labour cuts prisoner drug programmes

The Corrections Minister should explain why his department is replacing specialist drug and alcohol rehab programmes for prisoners with extra content in general criminogenic programmes, says National's Law & Order spokesman, Simon Power.

He is releasing answers from Damien O'Connor that show:

* Dedicated drug and alcohol programmes are being scrapped, with drug and alcohol issues to be dealt with in general programmes.
* There are now 25% more prisoners identified as drug users than in 2002. * There is a waiting list of 199 for 44 places in specialist drug treatment units.

"The move to halt these specialist programmes and replace them with general programmes is concerning, given that the number of prisoners testing positive for drugs is increasing steadily.

"The number of prisoners on drug and alcohol programmes was already low enough before this move. Just 103 went through the programmes last year when we know that about 83% of the prison population of 7,600 has drug or alcohol problems.

"It's essential the general prison population has access to dedicated programmes," Mr Power says. "If the current ones don't work they should be replaced with ones that will, rather than just being marginalised.

"For all of his talk about reducing prisoner numbers, the Minister has clearly opted for the quick-fix solution of letting them out of jail rather than investing in rehabilitation so they don't come back again.

"Let's get real about preparing prisoners as best we can for their release from prison. This may be the last chance we have of turning some of them around so they can contribute to society in a meaningful way.

"This move seems to fly in the face of comments by Chief executive Barry Matthews last year when he told a workshop of the Drug Foundation that Corrections aims to increase the number of offenders who start and complete drug and alcohol treatment programmes. It seems he forgot to tell his Minister."

ENDS

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