Statement on the 10-Year Drug Strategy
Revolving Doors Agency welcomes £780million of ringfenced funding to rebuild drug treatment and recovery services, as recommended by the Dame Carol Black Review. More funding for currently overstretched and under-resourced treatment and recovery services is a very positive step in the right direction. We were glad to have members of our National Expert Citizen’s Group (NECG) feed into Dame Carol’s review, and are pleased that their insights have contributed to increased investment into rebuilding these services.
We were also glad to see the strategy acknowledge the need to address poor mental health, homelessness and poverty alongside, rather than separately from, problematic substance use. Our lived experience membership repeatedly tell us that they are often trapped in a limbo of not being eligible for problematic substance use services due to poor mental health, and also not being eligible for mental health services due to problematic substance use – so we welcome this step to address inequalities in service access for those with dual diagnoses. We welcome greater integration between services to address barriers in accessing services, and in so doing more effectively address multiple disadvantage that so often entrenches people in the revolving door of crisis and crime.
The focus on problem solving courts for drug and/or alcohol offences is a positive step, but we are concerned with judges being able to impose new, brief custodial sentences for non-compliance. There is a strong evidence base that short prison sentences are not effective at reducing reoffending or addressing the root causes of crime, particularly when problematic substance use is the root cause. Finally, reducing stigma and taking steps towards greater inclusion within treatment and recovery services is critical to supporting the positive and trusting relationships necessary to support effective drug and/or alcohol rehabilitation. Whilst we were encouraged to see the strategy focus on reducing the stigma of problematic substance use, we were disappointed to see references to ‘addicts’ within the foreword, as well as the use of ‘offenders’. If language is to be inclusive of people who use drugs, it must be consistent.
Overall, our vision is of a system that diverts people who have issues with problematic substance use away from the criminal justice system and into the support they need to better manage these issues. A system that does not criminalise people for what we perceive to be primarily a public health issue.
Statement on the Prisons White Paper Strategy
Revolving Doors Agency welcomes the white paper’s focus on resettlement as a key element in reducing reoffending. We remain concerned, however, about the plans for thousands more prison places, continuing to press ahead with short custodial sentences, and the disproportionate focus on incarceration rather than addressing the drivers of crime. For many people caught in the revolving door of crisis and crime, prison does very little to address the root causes, including poverty, mental health and problematic substance use, of their offending.
The commitment to identifying resettlement needs early on in a custodial sentence is a positive step, but we feel this commitment needs to go further, to ensuring that no one is ever released from prison homeless or into inappropriate accommodation, for example into Appropriate Premises (APs) where they may be triggered into re-using substances by others using substances in the same building
We are glad to see references to trauma and gender-informed practice in the women’s estate, but feel this should be extended to the whole prison estate, including a consideration of the unique needs of young adults. Our evidence continues to suggest that prison is not the right place to address issues of trauma, mental health, problematic substance use and poverty – and that well-funded, person-centred wraparound support in the community is a better and more cost-effective solution to breaking cycles of crisis and crime and reducing reoffending.
Ultimately, our vision is of a system that does not criminalise and incarcerate people offending due to multiple, unmet needs, but rather invests in preventative and rehabilitative solutions in the community, that put people first.