Prisoners in the UK will be granted access to pool tables if they undergo regular drug testing

By Malavika Pradeep

Published Mar 3, 2022 at 08:48 AM

Reading time: 2 minutes

Seeking to tackle substance abuse in jails, prisoners will soon be granted access to pool tables, gym, work placements and more if they agree to go on drug-free wings and submit to regular testing, Dominic Raab, the Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary of UK, has announced.

Pledging a major expansion of drug recovery wings, where convicts will also be provided with counselling and therapy to curb addiction, Raab explained that the new plan is part of the strategy to promote abstinence from drugs among prisoners as a replacement for methadone—a popular substitute for heroin which, according to the Justice Secretary, is increasingly leaving prisoners in a “zombie comatose” state where they are unable to take up training and work.

“One of the messages I am sending across the prison estate is that I want to massively drive up opportunities for getting offenders into work and get offenders off methadone… and into sustainable drug recovery programmes,” he told The Daily Telegraph, adding how all of these factors are linked. “You are not going to get offenders doing courses or into work if they have got high-level dependency and addictions—and methadone is highly, highly addictive.”

During his visit to Wandsworth prison in south London, which currently has a drug recovery wing and is creating new links with employers, Raab admitted that tackling substance abuse in jails and getting inmates into work are his “mission critical” priorities. While the job rate for ex-offenders currently accounts for only 0.8 per cent of a jail’s performance, the Justice Secretary plans to increase the same to 20 per cent—in turn, generating more funds, pay bonuses and autonomy for successful prisons and their staff.

Prisoners in the UK will be granted access to pool tables if they undergo regular drug testing

Raab has also announced performance league tables for jails while the administration will be instructed to prioritise the employment of convicts. “We are setting Key Performance Indicators for all our prisons and there will be league tables and goals,” the Justice Secretary said in this regard. “It’s for funding or progressing to earned autonomy, which means greater latitude for governors to decide their regime.”

Seeking to create numerous incentives to achieve his ultimate vision, the new set of privileges will also include access to amenities like TVs and better kitchen facilities—apart from pool tables, gyms and the right to work. Raab additionally believes that the potential pool of recruits from prisons could also plug any post-Brexit skill shortages. “The point that Rosie Brown [chairman of Wandsworth prison’s EAB] is making is that it’s a fantastic Brexit opportunity to drive down re-offending by getting offenders into work,” he said.

“I don’t think you could curtail their sentence, but we want to create a virtuous circle of showing offenders how they can change their lives,” the Justice Secretary concluded.

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