Warning over repeat drug offenders

More than two-thirds of prisoners serving time for drug-related offences have previously been in prison for a similar offence in the last decade, figures show.

Parliamentary questions submitted by Liberal Democrat justice spokeswoman Alison McInnes have revealed that 70% of drug-related sentences are being served by repeat offenders.

Mrs McInnes has called on the Scottish Government to improve rehabilitation, saying: “We need to improve rehabilitation and tackle addiction if we are to break this cycle of reoffending. We need to make sure that offenders who want to change their lives have proper access to rehabilitation services whilst they are in prison. This then needs to be followed up properly in the community when they are released.”

She continued: “Ministers need to look at ways of building closer links between prisons, community rehabilitation services and residential treatment providers. Individuals must not be cast adrift as soon as they step outside the prison gates.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government has invested record amounts in frontline drug treatment services to help people recover – an investment which represents an increase of over 20% since 2006/07. This investment has been focused on ensuring that treatment becomes a person-centred and sustained offer.

“Our national drugs strategy, The Road to Recovery – endorsed unanimously by the Scottish Parliament – is as ambitious a drugs strategy as Scotland, and arguably the UK, has ever had to tackle the decades old drug legacy passed on to us.

“Since 2007, we know that there have been more than 35,000 referrals to specialised drug treatment, while the success of the HEAT target is driving up faster access to drug treatment services, with a commitment to a maximum three-week wait by 2013.

“Prior to April 2010 it was not uncommon for an individual who needed treatment to wait up to and in excess of a year – the latest figures show that more than 84% of those seeking treatment begin within three weeks.”

The spokesman said it is “for clinicians, recovery experts and the individuals themselves” to best decide on treatment options “within the context of long term and sustained recovery”.

“However, the Throughcare Addiction Service already provides continuity of care for those leaving custody who wish to go on to receive addiction services in the community in Scotland. This is a national service provided by local authority criminal justice social work or one of their contracted providers, working alongside the Scottish Prison Service and other partners.”