Response to the Drugs Death Taskforce Report on Drug Law Reform

The Shine Programme Board welcomes the report of the Drugs Death Taskforce and its evidence-based commentary on the issues regarding drug use for people in the criminal justice system.

We agree that incarceration is not the way to break the cycle of addiction and repeat offending. Third sector organisations have a vital role in providing alternative solutions and support. The Shine PSP supports women on remand or leaving prison after shorter sentences by providing them with a voluntary mentoring service. Many of these women have addiction issues. This is a public health issue and all agencies need to work together to tackle the root causes of addiction.

A service that supports women on the day of their release and focuses on positive support can contribute towards ending problematic substance misuse and minimise the risk of personal harm. There is a strong danger of overdose and death after having been through a de-tox process in prison. Naloxone is a lifesaver. We agree that any existing legal barriers to its use should be removed.

What women (and men) need, is help and support to get their basic needs met and the correct support to tackle their addictions. It is important that the same healthcare provision is available in custody, replicating what is available in communities

We agree that flexible release avoiding the weekend would help to ensure the correct support is in place prior to the weekend. We also agree that there should be alternatives in place for people on remand who have addiction problems.

There are some systemic barriers in the criminal justice system. Someone may be making good progress with a substance misuse problem, but previous offending catches up with them, often resulting in a custodial sentence. Consideration should be given to the “roll up” of offences- bringing all outstanding offences together in one court hearing. This would require a change in legislation.

Timely access to justice and to treatment would be helpful. There can be substantial periods of time involved between arrest, charges, conviction and sentencing.

More consideration should be given to the pathway or continuum from sentencing to re-release back into the community. Someone on a methadone prescription on admission to custody will need an assessment by healthcare staff in the prison which could result in a delay in agreeing to continue with the prescription. The same could happen on release with accessing a GP and getting a prescription. The MAT standards should assist individuals get the correct treatment as soon as possible.

Recorded Police Warnings could be an opportunity not just to issue a warning and keep someone out of the criminal justice system, but also an opportunity to engage positively and support them to access treatment and support.

Drug Treatment and Testing Orders should be used supportively, allowing the person served with the order to understand that when they fail or relapse that this is not the end of a road or an automatic breach, but it is part of the road to rehabilitation and recovery.

For more information about Shine contact: Rhona Innes at Sacro

21st September 2021