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Prisoner health survey fails to address big issues

Simon Power MP
National Party Justice & Corrections Spokesman

19 December 2006

Prisoner health survey fails to address big issues

A survey of the health of prisoners, released today, fails to address the big issues of drug use and mental health, according to National’s Justice & Corrections spokesman, Simon Power.

“The 2005 survey asks only about illicit drug use before entering prison, when the real challenge is to stop inmates using while they’re behind bars.”

The survey finds that one in ten prisoners reported using needles in prison, but this included piercing and tattooing, as well as for injecting drugs.

“And, despite some useful findings about the incidence of head injuries among prisoners, there seems to be very little emphasis on mental health issues.

“Even the report’s authors admit it is ‘limited in providing information about mental illness, alcohol and drug use, problem gambling, and disability among prisoners’.

“The report’s summary of previous research notes the prevalence of drug use and mental illness among prisoners, but since these earlier studies are more than five years’ old, the absence of similar questions in the 2005 survey is a huge missed opportunity.

“It’s also pretty poor policy co-ordination when, in recent months, the Government has announced it is ‘placing a strong emphasis on the development of alcohol and other drug treatment services for offenders, both in prison and in the community’.

“That is difficult to do when they don’t know the scale of current drug use among the prison population.

“The lack of emphasis on mental health in the survey is also startling at a time when this issue is gaining more prominence.”

Mr Power is also questioning why the survey has been released just one week before Christmas – when all the data had been collected by December last year.

ENDS

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