Prisons: Inmates `should be allowed alcohol'

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The Independent Online
Prisons should consider allowing inmates to drink alcohol - and even set up "simulated bars" - to encourage "sensible" drinking, according to an official report published yesterday.

The Prison Service's Health Advisory Committee said the lack of opportunity to consume alcohol behind bars was actually a disadvantage when it came to devising alcohol treatment programmes for some inmates.

It urged the Service to experiment with "imaginative" schemes so that inmates' progress in learning how to control their drinking can be properly assessed.

At the same time however, the committee called for a strict ban on drinking by prison staff while on duty. It said officers should be encouraged to go for lunchtime work-outs at the gym instead of downing a couple of pints.

For prisoners, the committee said there should be a series of "modular programmes" available, similar to those on offer outside jail, to teach them how to control their alcohol intake.

"The lack of opportunity to consume alcohol is a disadvantage for some treatment programmes," the report said. "Without access to alcohol the success of treatment and education cannot be accurately assessed."

While home leave provided some opportunity for monitoring a prisoner's progress, the report said that more could be done within jails.

"We recommend that the Prison Service should experiment with such imaginative approaches to the testing of sensible drinking and abstinence skills," the report said.