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Prison drugs policy must be based on rehabilitation – Ó Snodaigh

18 February, 2008

Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson has described the Government's drug free prison policy as a complete failure after information obtained by the Irish Times revealed that there has been no reduction in drug consumption in prisons since the policy was launched in 2004. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said priority should be given to drug counselling, treatment and rehabilitation programmes in prisons.

Speaking today the Dublin TD said, "The figures of drug use in Irish prisons in today's Irish Times shows that the Government's drug free prisons policy has been a complete failure. At the time of the launch of the policy Sinn Féin warned that this would be a failure as the emphasis on reducing the availability of drugs seemed to be at the expense of all else including any measures to provide drug counselling, treatment or rehabilitation programmes.

"Of course measures should be in place to prevent the availability of drugs in prisons but the priority should be to have in place effective counselling, treatment and rehabilitation programmes. If you prevent an inmate from receiving drugs in prison without providing proper counselling and rehabilitation the chances are that the inmate will return to drugs as soon as he/she is released. This would render the entire incarceration process useless.

"However, if a prisoner receives proper counselling, treatment and rehabilitation opportunities in prison there is a smaller chance of them returning to drugs and re-offending and that would render the incarceration process worthwhile as the individual would then have the chance to turn their life around and play a positive role in society.

"In light of these figures the Minister must now revisit his policy and place the emphasis harm-reduction, treatment and rehabilitation programmes. This could have been done previously if the Minister had recognised the problem instead of attempting to skew the figures by changing the testing arrangements." ENDS

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