Peril of the Addict Prisoners Freed without Treatment

Article excerpt

Byline: Jenny Hope

DOCTORS' leaders warned last night that members of the public are beingput at risk from drug addicts and mentally ill offenders freed from prisonwithout treatment.

They blasted a year of 'political failure' which has made large parts of theprison system a 'holding pen' for convicts, most of whom commit new crimesshortly after release.

Many prisons are 'swamped by illegal narcotics', said the British MedicalAssociation.

It called for hit squads of prison and police officers to go into every prisonin England and Wales to assess the extent of the drugs crisis.

Dr Redmond Walsh, a prison doctor and member of the BMA's Civil and PublicServices Committee, said drugs were directly contributing to high rates ofreoffending.

He said: 'Many prisons are currently swamped by illegal narcotics - a situationthat makes it close to impossible to wean some prisoners off their habit orprotect susceptible prisoners from becoming addicts.

'An estimated two thirds of prisoners who enter custody are drug dependent andseven out of ten without have one or more psychological disorders.

'It is clear that these conditions are in a large number of cases the primarycause of their criminal activity.

'The priority for the prison system after custodial punishment should thereforebe to treat individuals, where possible, so that when they are released theyare 66% of prisoners re-offend within two years of release no longer a threatto themselves or the community. …