Addiction is a chronic illness. It affects a person’s thoughts, behaviours, perceptions, and impulse control. As a result of this, people who suffer from a substance use disorder (SUD) often find themselves involved in legal trouble. However, addiction can cause people to act outside of their usual moral compass. As a result, they can often end up becoming entangled in the legal system.
A recent prison strategy in the U.K. seeks to stop people from becoming repeat offenders. A repeat offender is someone who, upon release from prison, commits another crime. Due to the destruction addiction can cause in a person’s life, without recovery, they could find themselves in repeated legal trouble. This new strategy, known as The Prisons Strategy White Paper, acknowledges that offenders are struggling themselves. The strategy will rehabilitate its inmate population with new skills, further education, and addiction care.
Addiction and Crime
Addiction can cause a person to do things that are out of character, impulsive, or risky. Furthermore, drug withdrawal symptoms can be so severe, both physically and psychologically. Studies have shown that this stage of addiction is when people are most likely to engage in risky behaviours like needle sharing or taking higher doses of a substance.
During this withdrawal experience, a person may be suffering from overwhelming symptoms and could be tempted to commit a crime. All in all, addiction can damage a person’s sense of judgement and moral reasoning. For this reason, many people in U.K. prisons today are there because of a substance use disorder.
New Prison Strategy
The new strategy seeks to implement practices within prisons that mimic a rehabilitation centre. As of now, drugs have a strong presence in prisons despite security measures in place to prevent them. Drug smuggling has adapted and overcome existing security and this strategy plans to tackle this issue head-on.
Prisons will now be equipped with airport-style security such as top-of-the-range body scanners. The prisons will now have a fully enforced, zero-tolerance approach to drugs. This is beneficial, as by eliminating the presence of drugs within the prison, relapse during incarceration should be impossible.
Upon arrival at the prison, each person’s needs are assessed. A team will assess whether they have a substance use disorder and if so, what substance they need rehabilitation from. With this information, an extensive recovery plan is put in place for their recovery from their admission to their eventual release. This plan will be entirely abstinence-based, meaning a full detox with no opportunity for relapse.
Within the prison, they have decided to redesign prisoner punishments. Instead of adding to their sentence, a prisoner that does something wrong within the establishment will get a punishment that manages the crime. For example, if a prisoner was to damage something within the prison, their punishment would be to fix it. This type of punishment encourages inmates to have a sense of responsibility over their actions, rather than just following orders.
This new strategy not only seeks to get inmates free of their addiction but also provides them with tangible skills to prevent relapse upon release. Inmates are taught language and numerical skills, making them fit for work in the outside world. They also help offenders obtain their driving licence which increases their likelihood of employment.
The new strategy announces the launch of the Prisoner Education Service. This service teaches highly employable trades like coding and construction skills.
This recovery plan ensures that prisoners are not only healed from a substance abuse disorder but can provide for themselves upon release as well. It is known through addiction research that low socioeconomic status and previous trouble with the law can leave people vulnerable to substance abuse. This is a solid plan to rehabilitate and prevent relapse in the outside world.
On The Outside
The prisons will now go a step beyond this and even after release, they will help ex-inmates get jobs in the community. They will help a person assess their skills and interests, and find suitable job types. Then, when a suitable job vacancy is posted, they will help them with their resumes and interview skills to ensure they can find and obtain work.
Starting back out in the world after incarceration can be daunting, especially if a person has served a lengthy sentence. They could forget what they need to succeed or even be overwhelmed with the amount of responsibility they are facing. As well as this, it can be unfortunately difficult for those with existing convictions to obtain work due to the stigma attached. For this reason, the prisons have launched what they are calling ‘resettlement passports’.
Resettlement passports are designed to provide prisoners with everything they need to succeed on the outside. These passports encompass a bank account, resume, and proper identification. They also provide them with adequate support systems within the community. Studies on addiction, and other emotional recovery processes, show that social support is imperative for a successful long-term recovery. This passport can truly provide offenders with a fresh start.
The government is not holding back on resources allocated to this new strategy, with six new state-of-the-art facilities being built. In reality, lowering repeat offences will save plenty of government resources in the long run. However, the most important part of this strategy is that prisons will now be doing what they should be doing – rehabilitating people.
This new strategy sends an important message; people that commit crimes are human beings that are struggling. Addiction is a chronic illness that can make good people do things they would ordinarily never do.