This is a really interesting RSA panel discussion looking at the Alcohol and Crime report released by the drugs charity Addaction.
Addaction’s Alcohol and Crime Commission surveyed prisoners across England and found that, while many will be abstinent during their sentence, there is little support to help them understand what part alcohol played in their offending. A lack of support on release means that many return to a life of crime with alcohol again playing a key part.
‘What we have is a booze-fuelled revolving door’ says the commission’s John Podmore, a professor at the University of Durham and ex-governor of Belmarsh, Swaleside and Brixton prisons. ‘And a system that doesn’t understand the complexities of alcohol-related crime.’
Of the prisoners surveyed, a massive 70 per cent admitted they had been drinking when they committed the offence for which they were incarcerated. Yet only half of those prisoners recognised their drinking as a problem. And while 76 per cent were aware of alcohol related support within the prison itself, only 40 per cent had been informed about support available upon release. It was clear that what was available in prison was based on dependency rather than behaviour and prisoners who had developed unhealthy and dangerous relationships with alcohol were being missed.
‘Make no mistake. This is a big problem’, says Addaction’s Chief Executive, Simon Antrobus. ‘A staggering number of prisoners committed a crime while drinking, but unless they’re alcohol dependent the system doesn’t properly recognise them as problem drinkers. This means that people are leaving prison without the support they need. Add to that the fact that after-care is almost non-existent and we end up with a situation where we’re asking people to reintegrate into society, but without any of the right tools they need to do so.’
This is a staggering statistic and underlines what a massive problem we have with alcohol in this country. If the problem was more openly acknowledged and more resources provided to support problem drinking and alcohol dependence would we have so much crime and incarceration? I don’t know the answer to that but it makes you wonder doesn’t it? What do you think?