A new report from the Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCD) has highlighted that the operation of Australia’s prisons need far greater levels of accountability and transparency, as well as a much stronger commitment to providing effective programs and treatment for people with drug and alcohol problems issues if we are to see any real reductions in reoffending rates.

The new ANCD commissioned report shows how Australia’s prisons currently have a major focus on reducing the supply of drugs with programs that are rarely evaluated and in the end fail to stop the availability or use of drugs in prisons.

The report - which was prepared by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre and reveals Australia’s prison population has leapt by 30% since 2002 - provides the most recent snapshot of drug and alcohol strategies and programs currently available across Australian prisons.

Further investigation undertaken by the ANCD has also discovered that total government expenditure on prisons and correction services has climbed dramatically from $1.5 billion (2004) to $2.8 billion in just 4 years (2008).

The ANCD was deeply concerned with the difficulties the authors faced in getting details on prison based drug and alcohol programs for its report. It is almost hard to envisage any other large taxpayer funded system, which so directly affects the lives of so many people and families, would be so difficult to access and assess information on how well its substantial funding is spent.

As a result, the ANCD is calling for the introduction of regular, transparent and independent reviews of every prison to determine the breadth and level of services available to address drug and alcohol problems and reduce reoffending. Such reports also need to provide information on outcomes, performance, effectiveness and the impact of the programs being implemented.

The ANCD report also highlights that despite years of growing evidence of needle sharing in prisons, and the continued effectiveness of community based needle and syringe programs in the community, that not one prison in Australia has as yet introduced or even trialled a prison based needle and syringe program. The ANCD does however acknowledge and welcome the important recent announcement by the ACT Government to introduce a limited ‘one-for-one’ medically based clean injecting equipment model into its prison.

 

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