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New research to test success of prison drugs initiative

Posted on 21 February 2013

New research led by the University of York will carry out a detailed appraisal of Drug Recovery Wings which have been established in 11 prisons in England and Wales.

The three-year study by researchers in the University’s Department of Health Sciences in partnership with Centre for Drug Misuse Research  in Glasgow and the University of Cambridge, aims to assess what impact DRWs have on prisoners’ drug or alcohol dependency and their impact on prisoners’ re-offending.

This important evaluation will compare the different approaches taken in selected prisons

Charlie Lloyd

It will identify which DRWs are most successful and focus on therapeutic programmes and interventions which work best.  Researchers will also study DRWs’ impact on the broader prison population and the economic costs and savings associated with them.

A Drug Recovery Wing is a dedicated area of a prison devoted to helping prisoners to move towards 'recovery' - giving up their substance use and preparing for social reintegration on release. They have been established in 11 prisons - Bristol, Brixton, High Down, Holme House, Manchester, Chelmsford, Brinsford, Styal, New Hall, Askham Grange and Swansea.

The 2010 UK drug strategy made a commitment to ensuring that drug treatment services maximised the opportunities for the recovery of all dependent drug users. Delivering abstinence-focused drug treatment services in prisons presents different challenges to those developed in the community principally because of the need to combine both treatment and custodial responsibilities.

The research will identify which DRWs produce the greatest reductions in drug and alcohol use and the greatest contribution to participants' broader recovery. Researchers will also identify the particular interventions which are most strongly associated with positive outcomes.

The research will interview staff and prisoners in the 11 prisons and describe the therapeutic programmes operating in the DRWs. Researchers will also collect information on the impact on prisons of having a wing focused on abstinence and recovery from drug and alcohol problems. The study will assess the economic costs and savings associated with the DRWs.

The study’s Principal Investigator, Charlie Lloyd, of the Department of Health Sciences at York, says: “This important evaluation will compare the different approaches taken in selected prisons in order to find out which models appear to work best in terms of helping prisoners to get off drugs and alcohol and in terms of reintegrating them into the community, preventing relapse and reducing reoffending.”

The research team also involves Steve Parrot, of York’s Department of Health Sciences, Neil McKeganey, of the Centre for Drug Misuse Research in Glasgow and Professor Alison Liebling, of the University of Cambridge.

Notes to editors:

Contact details

David Garner
Senior Press Officer

Tel: +44 (0)1904 322153

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