Drug addict mother asked for jail to break her habit and get sons back

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The Independent Online

A shoplifter facing a community punishment has chosen prison instead in an attempt to break her heroin addiction. Lisa Davies instructed her barrister to ask a judge to send her to jail for 18 months so she could undergo a new prison-run course designed to help women with drug problems.

A shoplifter facing a community punishment has chosen prison instead in an attempt to break her heroin addiction. Lisa Davies instructed her barrister to ask a judge to send her to jail for 18 months so she could undergo a new prison-run course designed to help women with drug problems.

Davies, 29, who was stealing nearly £3,000 worth of property a week to pay for her craving, saw the prison programme as the first step in being re-united with her two young sons. The boys, aged six and eight, were taken into care last year because of her drug problems.

Davies, in Low Newton prison, Durham, said: "This is my last chance. I have to succeed this time. I want to be able to see my sons again. I'm in here for them."

She will have six months of therapy at Low Newton in the first drugs rehabilitation unit to be set up for women prisoners in Britain. In return for not taking drugs, the 60 women on the unit are given special privileges, including early release dates and more home visits.

They have to sign a contract and are subjected to regular and random tests to make sure they are drug-free.

Davies, from Middlesbrough, said: "When I was in court, there was a rehab worker waiting outside for me. But I turned down the offer because I knew I would be easily tempted back onto drugs. I knew prison was the only chance."

After being admitted to the therapy programme, Davies has been drug-free for three months and is to be released at Christmas.

She is studying for a community sports leadership award and has been selected as a prison "listener", offering support to other inmates who may feel depressed or suicidal.

"I now realise that drugs have ruined my life," Davies added. "I'm nearly 30, I haven't seen my little boys for more than a year and they mean everything to me."

The Prison Service believes the programme can play an important role in reducing re-offending by the women, almost 70 per cent of whom are being held for drug-related crimes.

Inmates selected for the course must be willing to attend and present daily meetings and engage in three weekly peer-encounter groups in which groups of up to eight inmates challenge each other about their perceived failings.

Prisoners can be expelled from the unit for violence, bullying, vandalism or bad language.

Digby Griffith, head of the Low Newton unit, said the programme was "not a soft option".

He added: "This is by no means easy, not least because drugs and other substances will often have been used to mask pain, abuse or other difficulties."

Mr Griffith said he had to accept that graduates of the programme would be vulnerable to resuming their drug abuse when they returned to the outside world.

He said: "We must look to other agencies to play their part to ensure prison does not become the only option for anyone desperate to come off drugs."

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