HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Prison Policy 'Surrender To Drugs Crisis'
Pubdate: Mon, 01 Jul 2002
Source: Herald, The (UK)
Copyright: 2002 The Herald
Author: Valerie Hannah


Giving Inmates Heroin Substitute Attacked

A PRISON scheme that puts some inmates back on drugs before they are 
released came under renewed fire yesterday after it was defended by the 

The Scottish Executive has said that a handful of "totally chaotic" 
prisoners are offered a heroin substitute to prevent them from overdosing 
or reoffending when released.

Richard Simpson, deputy health minister, yesterday defended the scheme, 
which he said was aimed at preventing people from dying.

However, Bill Aitken, the Tory justice spokesman, attacked the scheme as 
being "total and abject surrender" to the drugs crisis.

Three out of every four prisoners enter jail with some kind of drug 
problem, and 15 drug addicts died within two weeks of being released from 
jail in 1999.

Commenting on the re-toxification scheme, Mr Aitken said: "We find this 
situation absolutely appalling. These people are sent to prison with a view 
of getting them off drugs, and at the same time, the executive give them 
drugs shortly before they are released.

"This is a policy of total and abject surrender to the drugs crisis, which 
we see as one of the biggest issues today. The executive must adopt a 
tougher and more realistic line or condemn future generations to a greater 
and more sinister involvement with drugs."

The Scottish Prison Service introduced the controversial scheme, called the 
Retox Programme, earlier this year to prevent the growing number of 
released prisoners overdosing on heroin while on parole.

Inmates are assessed by psychologists and drug counsellors, and are offered 
a place on the programme if it is thought there is a strong possibility 
they will return to drugs when released.

Vic Walker, of the Open Door Trust, a charity that works with people 
affected by unemployment, drugs, alcohol and crime, said yesterday: "I 
think there is a place (for re-toxification) within an overall strategy, 
but . . . should always be seen as a stepping stone to get people to the 
ultimate destination of being able to be free to reach their potential."

Professor Neil McKeganey, of the Drug Misuse Centre at Glasgow University, 
added: "We know when drug addicts leave jail, they are at very high risk of 
overdose if they resume their previous pattern of drug use.

"But if you have got someone who has attained abstinence and they are going 
to be released, it does seem pretty strange to reintroduce them to drugs.

"My own feeling is that one should be ensuring that they have got adequate 
support services and information alerting them to the risks of resuming 
their previous pattern of drug use."

Dr Simpson stressed that the re-tox programme applied to "a group of 
totally chaotic people who repeatedly, in going out of prison, have risked 
their lives by taking quantities of hard drugs. If we can stop them from 
dying, this is a measure we are prepared to take."

He said the alternative was for people to come out of jail and commit 
crimes for drug money. "There are 7500 prisoners entering treatment systems 
and only a handful in re-toxification.

This must be kept in total perspective," he said.
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