Pubdate: Tue, 28 Feb 2006
Source: New Zealand Herald (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2006 New Zealand Herald
Author: Simon Collins
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)
Bookmark: (Treatment)


Drugs and alcohol are behind most New Zealand crime - but about 95 per
cent of the prisoners with drug and alcohol problems will get no help
with their addictions this year.

The Corrections Department says 89 per cent of serious offenders were
affected by drugs and/or alcohol in the period leading to their offences.

Another survey found that 83 per cent of all prisoners had abused or
been dependent on alcohol or other drugs in their lives - 75 per cent
on alcohol, 53 per cent on cannabis and 39 per cent on other
substances. Most had multiple addictions.

Yet the department says prisoners get help for their addictions only

* They are jailed for long enough to attend a treatment programme.
In practice this excludes most prisoners sentenced to less than two
years in jail.

* They are likely to commit crimes again when they are

* Their addictions contribute directly to their likelihood of

* They have passed two consecutive urine tests showing they are not
using drugs or alcohol in prison.

* They are motivated to go straight.

As well, they normally get help only about two-thirds of the way
through their sentences, because the idea is to keep them off
addictive substances when they leave jail.

These criteria rule out almost everyone. This year Corrections will
put only 140 people through a 10-week, 100-hour drug and alcohol
education course and only 174 into more intensive six-month courses at
Waikeria and Arohata. That is 314 people, or 5 per cent of the 83 per
cent of inmates with drug or alcohol problems.

"There are not enough programmes for them. That's a big part of the
reason why our people are reoffending," says a Cook Islands Maori
social worker who works with released prisoners.

Although alcohol has been a problem since the first European sealers
and whalers arrived here, other drugs are surprisingly new.

As recently as 1974, when the Rev David Connor started as a chaplain
at Waikune near National Park, drugs were "not a problem".

Even in 1984, when he moved to Paremoremo, there was only one
chain-link fence around the medium-security block.

"Now that fence has razor wire on top, and there is a steel fence
beyond it and then there is a trip-wire barrier that sets off an
alarm, and outside that there is another razor-wire fence."

Prisoners are now strip-searched after seeing visitors and
urine-tested regularly.

Drug-dogs search cells and mailrooms. All prisoners' phone calls are

At one prison, even the number of Christian volunteers has been cut by
three-quarters to minimise drug smuggling. Yet drugs still get in.

"There's heaps of weed, even methamphetamine. Drugs are part of your
life. It's been like that since I've been going to jail. They will
never stamp it out," says one ex-prisoner who has been jailed 16 times
in the past 21 years.

Counsellors say drugs will stay a problem inside as long as they are
widely used outside. A former drug dealer whose partner is still in
jail says drugs are a big slice of our economy.

"We had a few million dollars. We were using it to stay in luxury
hotels, motels, villas. Go and look at the penthouse suites and half
of them will be full of methamphetamine users."

He's off drugs now but says: "It's hard work staying off it because
you want it every day. It's part of your life, it's going to be part
of your life for the rest of your life. I love taking them. Drugs are
my friend. But drugs don't give you love."

Auckland counsellor David Chaloner says 85 per cent to 90 per cent of
people can drink in moderation and stop when they've had enough. But
the other 10 to 15 per cent get hooked.

Reducing drug use in society requires helping people to find a balance
between individualism and responsibilities to family, jobs and those
in need.

In jails, it means helping prisoners to become responsible by
fostering rather than restricting links with family and others,
expanding work in prisons and community service outside, and enabling
prisoners to organise their own activities as they do in the Maori
focus units.

"The Maori focus units are great," says the Cook Islands social
worker. "They involve all the whanau and have that concept of finding
out who they are.

"I witness the lightness in their faces, like a spiritual event in
their joy of discovering themselves."

Abandoned and Left to His Addictions

It has taken 10 jail terms to get Chris his first chance to lead a
normal life.

Chris (not his real name) is 22 and has been jailed nine times since
he was 16. The longest time he lasted outside was two months.

Through all that time, Chris says, he was never given any alcohol or
drug education or treatment in prison, and has never attended any
addiction counselling as a condition of his release.

Finally, before sentencing him just before Christmas for his 10th term
inside for burglary, a judge noticed that he had a problem and ordered
a drug and alcohol assessment.

In this he scored 28 out of 40 on an alcohol dependence test and 13
out of 20 for drug problems and the judge sentenced him to two years
in jail with leave to apply for home detention at Odyssey House in

Roger Brooking, a Wellington counsellor who did Chris' alcohol and
drug assessment, says it's tragic that he had to wait so long.

"Both his parents were alcoholic," he says. "At five, he was taken off
them and went to live with his aunt and uncle. There were 15 people
living with his aunt and uncle.

"He began sniffing petrol and smoking cannabis at the age of 12 and
says he got regular hidings from his aunt and uncle and started
running away from them. He started drinking and began offending.

"Eventually he was taken into Child, Youth and Family Services' care
and was placed in a series of foster homes.

"From then on, no one in his family has wanted to have anything to do
with him. His mother drinks. He has only seen his father three times
in the last nine years. He hasn't seen his brothers and sister in six

"He has only occasional phone contact with his aunt and uncle and
appears to have no support outside prison whatsoever."

He attended three secondary schools but spent no more than two months
at any of them. He has had three brief jobs, the longest for a month.

Every time he is released, Chris lives on the streets and steals
alcohol, or the money to buy it.

"He has never had a relationship which has lasted more than two weeks,
because of his drinking, his lack of social skills and the amount of
time he has spent in prison," Mr Brooking says.

Given Chris' alcoholic parents, he has always been genetically
vulnerable to substance abuse. But treatment is possible.

"Just because there is a genetic vulnerability doesn't mean he can't
get on top of it."

Bungle Threatens Addict's Recovery

A lawyer who was double-booked in court may have cost Matt his chance
of getting his drug addiction treated.

Matt (not his real name) had his case referred to the High Court
recently when his legal aid lawyer failed to appear at a District
Court hearing because he was busy in another court.

Eight months ago, the lawyer said that if the case went to the High
Court, the chances of getting Matt bail to attend an addiction centre
would be negligible.

He pleaded guilty to his drug-related offence and a friend who
contacted the Herald said Matt was keen to finally "get clean".

"I think he was born an addict. It's in the genes," the friend said.
"His father is an alcoholic, but he left when Matt was six weeks old.
He has never met him.

"He has a history of alcohol abuse, marijuana, and then

Matt, 38, had held down jobs and had a 3-year-old son, but was
estranged from the boy's mother.

He got a first chance to change six years ago when he was arrested on
another charge and allowed to go to a residential treatment course.

His friend went to his graduation. "It was great to see the change in
his attitude and behaviour," she says.

But when the case came back to court for sentencing after he had
completed the course, it was to a different judge, who sentenced him
to two years in jail in a distant city.

"None of the skills he had learned on the course were able to be
used," his friend said.

"You are in prison. You can't call your sponsor. You can't go to

"He had this attitude of, 'why did I bother?'."

When he came out, he started using drugs again and soon hooked up with
friends from jail. "He was away again. There had just been too much

His arrest again last July gave him a second chance. The lawyer said
he would try to get Matt bail to attend a course, and the friend found
him a bed at Odyssey House.

But the lawyer was called away on the day and had not arranged another
hearing date. The judge referred the case to the High Court. Odyssey
House told the lawyer it had had to give the bed to someone else, and
he should defer an application to the High Court for bail until
another bed came up.

That may happen in the next fortnight. Matt's life might yet be saved.
But his friend is worried.

"He got badly let down," she said. "With drug addicts, there is only a
small window of opportunity. He has just pretty much thrown his hands
up in horror." 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake