Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Doing nothing

The government's plans to ban smoking in prisons and to help prisoners give up smoking has focused attention on the more general issue of prisoners and addiction. A staggering proportion of prisoners have drug and alcohol problems - over 80% according to this Herald article - and this plays a large role in their reoffending. Pretty obviously, treating these addictions would help reduce reoffending in the long-term. But strangely, the government does nothing. Currently, they fund about 500 places in treatment programs per year, which is SFA compared to the scale of the problem. And then they make it impossible for prisoners to actually get into those programmes.

When questioned about this today, the Government proudly declared that it was doubling the number of places, from 500 to 1,000. Which sounds impressive, until you realise that's over three years, and given the low base, it still amounts to doing squat. Double nothing is still nothing.

This is something the government needs to act on. But rather than making a long-term investment in reducing recidivism, they'd rather penny-pinch and think short-term. And so prisoners will continue to reoffend, prison numbers will rise, and we will continue to needlessly pay hundreds of millions of dollars a year to keep these people in boxes.