Now that I am retired having been many years a magistrate with a long awareness of the declining freedoms enjoyed by the ordinary citizen and a corresponding fear of the big brother state`s ever increasing encroachment on civil liberties I hope that my personal observations within these general parameters will be of interest to those with an open mind. Having been blogging with this title for many years against the rules of the Ministry of Justice my new found freedom should allow me to be less inhibited in these observations.




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Monday, 23 January 2017

TREATMENT OR JAIL FOR ADDICTED OFFENDERS?

From my earliest experiences on the bench I have been convinced that not only those whose criminal actions have been based upon addiction to alcohol or drugs would be better off in a compulsorily ordered medical environment but society in general and the public purse in particular would also benefit. The oft quoted comparisons that a prisoner in jail costs more per week than a schoolboy at Eton whilst not strictly accurate  serve to put the case in an easily understood context.  But it is not just the balance sheet presented to the tax payer and the Chancellor of the Exchequrer which ought to provide the momentum to effect change;  it is the outcome for society.  Addicted recidivists not only suffer themselves; their families are contaminated by the knock on effect of their addiction.  Partners are subjected to violence, children are scarred for life mentally if not physically and countless thousands of innocent law abiding people suffer actual or tangential effects for being in the wrong places at the wrong times. Not surprisingly I am also convinced that there must be de-criminalisation of drugs use despite the fears of well meaning experts about the long term possible damage from cannabis use. It is IMHO unlikely to be a subject for serious parliamentary debate until a party is elected with a manifesto commitment and such a clear majority that the passage of a bill to that effect would seem assured. But avoidance of the court process for addicts is a different matter and one more likely to command widespread support. Since the closure of what were known as lunatic asylums.....lunatic:original meaning as someone who went crazy with every phase of the moon: asylum: a health care facility providing inpatient and outpatient therapeutic services to clients with behavioural or emotional illnesses.....and referral to care in the community  the treatment and care of those with mental health problems has become a national disgrace. Indeed the rising numbers of deaths in custody are just the visible tip of this horrific iceberg. Whilst suicide rates in Great Britain are not of the levels* in Eastern Europe for each family involved it is a tragedy. However self inflicted deaths in custody including prison are at record levels.  It is unknown how many are drug related but only an ostrich would refuse to acknowledge that substance addiction is unrelated to such happenings. 

Last week as every week in most English Magistrates` Courts  an offender pleaded to be given a custodial sentence to enable him to overcome his drug habit.  The short sentence in prison resulting from his breach of a civil order will not cure him of his addiction. The medical and probation sevices are unable to cope.  The NHS is in crisis. Prisons are overcrowded to the point of chaos. Drugs and alcohol are as easily available as ever inside prison and out. Lobbyists are pressing for the abolition of short custodial sentences. MOJ budgets are not cut to the bone; they are cutting through the bone. The current methods and theories of  rehabilitation are failing the poorest.   As mentioned once previously here in a different context and attributed to Einstein but not verifiable, "insanity can be defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results".  By this definition our rulers are in need of treatment as much as if not more than any of us. 

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3 comments:

  1. Couldn't agree more with just about everything you have said with one exception. I have yet to be convinced that decriminalising drugs is the way to go because we MUST prevent our children and grandchildren from easily accepting invitations to indulge. And let's not forget that Maggie closed the 'mental' institutions with no plan of any sort to continue to help those concerned. And all the so called plans to cut re-offending rates have never worked. In 30 years it has stubbornly stayed at about 65%. So what next?

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  2. I also entirely agree with you. Medicalisation of use rather than criminalisation of users, with a regulated supply of known quality drugs and continued criminalisation of supply by other dealers is the way forward.
    However there will be no debate about this for several years whilst apparently more pressing political issues are worked through. Then there will be no rational debate in this country until the experience of other countries where changes have already taken place(Portugal, many US states, for example) becomes so commonplace that the popular press here has to take note. In the meantime, vast amounts of our money - taxes (through benefits paid to addicts)and goods stolen from shops and individuals - will find their way into the pockets of wealthy drug lords.
    The same applies to alcohol: underlying cause of so much violent crime and the associated costs financial and personal. Difficult to treat but we spend only peanuts on doing so.

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  3. But if we decriminalise drugs the financial incentive to 'push' largely disappears.

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