Therapy courses for drug users lead to cut in crime

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The Independent Online

Crime committed by heavy drug users is being "substantially" reduced by a programme that allows offenders to undergo intensive therapy rather than go to prison, the Home Office said yesterday.

Crime committed by heavy drug users is being "substantially" reduced by a programme that allows offenders to undergo intensive therapy rather than go to prison, the Home Office said yesterday.

Offenders who have been given the "last chance" of a Drug Treatment and Testing Order (DTTO), rather than being jailed, claim to have cut spending on drugs from £400 a week to £25 a week.

An evaluation of the scheme by the Home Office reported yesterday that "even if a minority" of offenders completed the programme, "the amount of crime prevented will be substantial".

But probation officers warned that the people completing the £6,000-a-head treatment - which includes group therapy and acupuncture and requires regular drug testing - were merely a small number of "success stories" among a larger pool of drug-using offenders.

The Home Office report showed that of 554 people assessed for possible DTTOs, only 210 had been accepted as sufficiently low risk and only 31 had completed the programme, introduced two years ago in Croydon, Liverpool and Gloucestershire. Of those accepted on to the scheme, 96 failed to abide by the conditions and were sent back to court for sentencing.

The Home Office conducted interviews with 132 offenders on the programme. Evidence that they had reduced their drug use was based on self-reporting during interviews. Of the 31 completing the scheme, all said they had become crime-free and 27 said they were free of drugs, except cannabis.

Many of the 210 on the scheme were not drug-free, however, with 45 per cent of urine tests during the programme showing positive for crack/cocaine and 42 per cent for heroin and other opiates.

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