Offenders with drinking problems do not get enough support to turn their lives around, a report found today.
Alcohol misuse is a bigger cause of crime and ill health than drug abuse, but intervention schemes are under-resourced and health and justice services should pool their resources in the future, the Centre for Mental Health study said.
Six out of 10 men, and four out of 10 women, who are jailed in England are harmful or hazardous drinkers, with alcohol being a fact in three-quarters of cases of domestic violence and more than half of assaults, the researchers said.
Professor Sean Duggan, the centre's joint chief executive, said: "Having a diagnosis of alcohol dependency or misuse is too often a label for exclusion from both health and drug treatment services.
"For people in the criminal justice system this exclusion can have a devastating impact.
"We hope that the Government will create a more conducive environment to improve responses at all levels and for all who need more help to manage their alcohol use and offending."
Dr Ruth Shakespeare, of Public Health South West - where some of the report's research was carried out - added that alcohol misuse in England costs about £23 billion a year, "more than half of it in the costs of crime".
The report, A Label for Exclusion, found offenders who drink harmfully are not offered as much support as those who use illegal drugs, from basic screening and advice to specialist counselling and treatment programmes.
As well as calling for health and justice services to pool their resources, the report also said all frontline workers, such as police officers and GPs, should have basic skills in recognising alcohol misuse and be able to refer people on to specialist services if they need them.
The report's authors, Rob Fitzpatrick and Laura Thorne, said it was clear that "alcohol interventions are under-resourced".
"Inadequate provision at all stages of the offender pathway is further exacerbated by misalignment between health and criminal justice objectives and a lack of equivalence between alcohol and drug service commissioning," they wrote.
"It is clear that a primary focus of future development in alcohol and criminal justice must not simply be about creating more services (as important as that is), but improved evidencing of need coupled with improved joint commissioning and outcome measurement, and more effective service delivery."Reuse content