UK prisoners ‘getting clean’ in addiction war

February 10, 2023


The government claims thousands of UK prisoners are getting clean of drugs as its “war on addiction” steps up.

Drug use and dealing have become a massive issue in Britain’s prisons in recent years.

But ‘New Incentivised Substance Free Living Units’ are now up and running in 45 prisons across England and Wales.

They are aimed at getting addicts off illicit drugs and reducing their reliance on synthetic opiates like methadone.

Official figures show half of prisoners are addicted to drugs, while crack and heroin addicts account for two-thirds of shoplifting offences and half of burglaries, blighting communities up and down the country.

Repeated reoffending is commonplace.


Yet offenders who are supported to get off drugs for good are 19% less likely to slip back into a life of crime.

The new wings will make sure prisons are places where criminals get – and stay – clean while they pay their debt to society, instead of languishing on drug substitutes like methadone which can hinder their rehabilitation.

Today’s news, alongside tough new security including X-ray body scanners, forms a cornerstone of the government’s strategy to break the cycle of addiction and re-offending which costs the tax-payer £19 billion a year.

Deputy Prime Minister, Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor, Dominic Raab, said: “We are clamping down on drugs behind bars with tough new security, but we know reducing supply is not enough to break the cycle of addiction and offending.

“Our new drug-free units and drug recovery wings will help prisoners tackle their addictions, including to opiate substitutes like methadone, in turn cutting their risk of reoffending and creating safer streets.”

The government is also investing in up to 18 drug recovery wings where prisoners can go through six months of intensive abstinence-based treatment to break their reliance on methadone as well as dangerous substances.

On the new incentivised units, offenders will tackle their addictions through substance misuse courses and regular drug testing

In exchange, prisoners who are making progress towards getting clean receive extra time out of cell for education and work opportunities and, once they’ve turned their back on drugs for good, including substitutes like methadone, the prospect of being transferred to a drug recovery wing for six months of intensive, fully abstinence-based treatment.

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