Drink and Drugs News DDN September 2019 | Page 14

Prisons Case dismissed Why are recommendations to improve custody-community transitions being routinely ignored when so many lives are at stake? DDN reports A s drug-related death rates continue to rise there is one fact we can be sure of: that newly released prisoners make up a significant number of those who lose their lives – there were 955 deaths of offenders in the community in England and Wales in 2017-18. The few weeks after release pose a particularly high risk. The reasons for this can be complicated and overlapping – tolerance to drugs has been 14 | drinkanddrugsnews | September 2019 compromised while chaos is reintroduced. Those who find themselves in custody frequently have mental and physical health problems, all kinds of background trauma, and problems relating to their housing and basic wellbeing – all mixed in with their problem drug use. Leaving prison can mean confusion, uncertainty and overwhelming difficulties with families, accommodation and day-to-day living. These issues have been well documented over the years, with clear recommendations resulting from reviews such as The Patel report: reducing drug-related crime and Rehabilitating offenders: recovery and rehabilitation for drug users in prison and on release: recommendations for action, published by the government in 2010. But according to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), the extent to which these recommendations have been implemented is unclear, with little evidence to suggest that they have led to safer practice. In their report, Custody-community transitions, released in June, they examined the existing recommendations and, with input from government departments, service providers and charities in the sector, looked at what must change (DDN, July/August, page 5). A look at the ‘substantial harms’ that contribute to the unacceptable death rate showed that many prisoners were still being released without the certainty of accommodation, increasing their risk of relapse and reoffending. The risk of death post-release www.drinkanddrugsnews.com