Call for cut in jail population

Helen McCormack
Tuesday 30 May 2006 00:57

Drug users are deliberately committing offences to gain access to treatment for their addictions, the most senior judge in England and Wales said.

Lord Phillips, the Lord Chief Justice, called for better drug rehabilitation provision and said there was a need to increase the number of beds for mentally ill offenders if the prison-overcrowding crisis was to be eased.

"We need much better drug rehabilitation facilities in the community. It should not be necessary to commit an offence in order to get drug treatment. I am afraid the reality in many parts of the country is that it is", he told The Guardian.

Overcrowding was proving "absolutely fatal" to efforts to tackle the effective treatment of inmates, including those with drug addictions, he added.

According to Home Office figures, there were 77,640 people in prison this month. The total prison population was expected to reach 80,000 by the autumn, exceeding maximum capacity.

Lord Phillips warned against judges issuing custodial sentences unless absolutely necessary. Although there was no alternative to prison for dangerous dangerous offenders, he said that the "sensible place" to carry out rehabilitation was in the community, wherever possible.

He added that courts should avoid the temptation to issue short sentences for a "touch of prison", but that the practice was "illogical".

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