New Zealand: drug treatment in prison environment "very ineffective", counsellor says

Drug treatment in prison is "a waste of money" and the government needs to be investing more into drug courts, an experienced drug and alcohol counsellor says

Corrections cut its AOD (Alcohol and Other Drug) Brief Support Programme and its AOD Intermediate Treatment Programme in 2018, which has seen a massive drop in the number of prisoners receiving treatment. Corrections continue to offer drug treatment programmes ranging from three to 12 months long, delivered by trained clinicians, which were shown to reduce reoffending by about 5 percent.

“Because they’re provided within the prison environment, they’re very ineffective”, Roger Brooking, an alcohol and drug counsellor with over 15 years experience working with prisoners, said. In comparison, Brooking said those who completed the Auckland drug court were 62 percent less likely to reoffend and 71 percent less likely to return to prison in the first 12 months after treatment.

AOD Treatment Courts aim to deal with those whose offending and substance abuse are intertwined. Courts Minister Aupito William Sio said earlier this month announcing that one would be opening in Hamilton. The courts still impose sentences but offer treatment, monitoring, drug testing and mentoring, Sio said.

Drug treatment in the community is 10 to 12 times more effective than drug treatment in prisons and yet the bulk of the money is going on drug treatment in prisons.

Brooking said he was not opposed to drug treatment in prisons, but he wanted more funding to be spent on drug courts than in prisons : “If the government invested in drug courts up and down the country, this would reduce reoffending and the number of people in prison dramatically.