Most prisoners have a history of drug or alcohol problems. Often, these are linked to mental health issues, and are a major cause of offending.
Sadly, the vast majority of the 85,000 prisoners in England and Wales are in prisons where drug dealing and consumption is the norm. There is strong pressure to start using, with almost a fifth of prisoners first trying heroin in prison. And existing users often escalate their consumption while inside.
But many prisoners want to use their time in prison to get out of the cycle of drugs and crime. And prisoners who do not use drugs would prefer to be free of the violence and peer pressure that accompany drug use and dealing in prisons.
Recovery wings offer a solution. They are dedicated locations within prisons where a culture of abstinence is promoted and closely supervised, largely by the prisoners themselves. Inmates on recovery wings commit to higher scrutiny and security, with treatment and peer support services provided to those who need them.
Well-run recovery wings are proven to be successful in reducing violence, intimidation and self-harm, as well as post-release addiction and re-offending. Despite this, they have not been rolled out across the prison system. Given the well-known and increasingly acute problems caused by prions drug culture, this is astonishing.
Forward Trust has over 25 years’ experience of running recovery wings. In 2013, Forward Trust managed 14 recovery wings in prisons across England. Now, due to budget cuts and changing prison service priorities, we run just five – despite their demonstrable effectiveness.
Join More Than My Past in calling on the Ministry of Justice and NHS England to get serious about reducing drug demand in prisons, and put a recovery wing in every prison.