Treating Drug Dependency
Two of Ireland’s prisons (Mountjoy and Cloverhill) have the largest drug stabilisation programmes in the country.
However, adequate attention to the needs of people who have a drug dependency within their community setting could substantially reduce crime and lessen the need for expensive prison places.
For instance, during the two years which some drug users have to wait to get onto a methadone treatment programme, a person could conceivably commit 1,500 crimes – if we calculate that he or she is likely to commit, on average, two crimes a day to feed their habit.
Recognising Personal Trauma and Mental Health issues
Many people in prison have experienced traumatic childhoods. Studies have shown that many women prisoners with substance abuse problems have turned to drugs and alcohol as a way to deal with experiences of abuse and violence, which in turn led to their involvement with crime.
A substantial number of prisoners suffer from mental illness. Access to counselling, psychiatric services and other forms of care are important within and post-release from prison.
Prisons may not be the most appropriate environment for people with mental illnesses. Improved resources within the community for mental illness may be a more effective way to tackle the incidence of crime related to mental illness. It has been suggested that Ireland set up a Mental Health Court, which would operate in a similar way to the Drug Treatment Court. A Mental Health Court could be used to divert people away from prison and towards psychiatric services.