We note that despite the introduction of provisions for the compulsory testing for controlled drugs and alcohol at HM Prison by the former GSD Government in 2011, not one person has been tested under the compulsory powers provided to Prisoner Officers. Moreover, no use has been made of the provisions which allow the Parole Board to add conditions to those who are granted parole to undergo a period of compulsory drugs testing. This was also a legislative change introduced by the GSD Government.
In Parliament last week both the Leader of the Opposition, Daniel Feetham MP, and the Shadow Minister for Justice, Elliott Phillips MP, pressed the Alliance Government on the reasons for the absence of compulsory drugs testing at the Prison and the attachment of conditions to paroled prisoners.
The response was that the Prison preferred arrangements whereby prisoners would voluntarily agree to submit to drugs testing in exchange for prison privileges. We believe that although voluntary arrangements should be encouraged the authorities must use the provisions of the law on mandatory drugs testing as part of wider strategy on drugs. In relation to parole and where a prison applicant for parole has substance abuse issues, there should be compulsory drugs testing on release as a condition of parole. When people who have been granted parole are released back into the community they are often vulnerable, without work and support networks and it is important that as part of ongoing rehabilitation they are subjected to regular drugs testing as a condition of their release.
Tackling substance abuse and alcohol misuse is a very difficult challenge and it requires robust education and training programmes in and outside of the prison context, as well as a rehabilitation and counselling programmes that offer continuing support to those plagued with addiction. Recovery from addiction is a long process and it requires support at all levels.
At the opening of Parliament the Chief Minister pledged to bring drugs and rehabilitation with his responsibility, there is little evidence that this has happened. Substance abuse and addiction must be tackled seriously and at every level.
Commenting on the position Elliott Phillips MP, Shadow Minister for Justice, said “We understand the challenges faced by the authorities on the question of substance and alcohol abuse, we don’t pretend that it is easy, but we have at our disposal provisions within the law which are not being used effectively. Substance abuse is corrosive, it destroys families and society. Alongside robust rehabilitation programmes and support we must enforce the provisions of the law at our disposal. Drugs must be tackled by winning the small battles that we can win along the way, such as creating opportunities for recovering addicts to get back into society and working”.