The Critical State of Custody – Community Transitions
Prisoners who are dependent on drugs face significant barriers to continuity of care when they are released back into the community. The immediate period after release is when at risk prisoners are most vulnerable to harm and relapse. The lack of high quality supported transitions is leading to more deaths and higher dropout rates in community based treatment.
Drug Related Deaths:
There is growing international evidence about the high risk of overdose and death of opiate using prisoners in the period immediately post-release. A recent Norwegian study found during the first week post-release, overdose deaths accounted for 85% of all deaths of those transitioning back into the community. Recent UK research also found the first week following prison release was the period of highest risk of mortality with drug-related deaths the main cause. The failure of prisons to consistently provide the potentially lifesaving opiate blocker Naloxone for at risk prisoners is resulting in unnecessary deaths.
Treatment Dropout Rates:
The National Drug Treatment Monitoring Service illustrates that just 30.3% of adults who engage with substance misuse treatment in custody engage in community-based structured treatment within 21 days. Furthermore a 2017 survey highlighted that 38% of those seeking continued treatment upon release either received no medication or did not get the type of as much as they wanted.
A number of factors are making the situation worse, namely; the changes in probation provision since HMG’s Transforming Rehabilitation project in 2015, the depletion of the Drug Intervention Programme (DIP), and wider disinvestment in criminal justice specific services. Constant restructuring of services is also causing widespread confusion and miscommunication, causing individuals to fall through the gaps.
Blenheim urges the UK Government to guarantee that criminal justice and treatment services are adequately and sustainably resourced. Urgent reinvestment in mechanisms such as the Drug Intervention Programme are essential to ensure custody and community treatment services are fully joined up and the mandatory provision of Naloxone for at risk prisoners is essential to stop people dying needlessly.
Download Blenheim’s full report on this issue here – Failure by Design and Disinvestment: The Critical State of Custody – Community Transitions