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The Alcohol and Crime Commission Report

In early 2011, Addaction noticed a significant gap in service provision for prisoners suffering from alcohol abuse – in particular through-the-gate services. In an attempt to tackle some of these problems at a local level, and with funding from Heineken UK, Addaction set up a resettlement service in Manchester.

The project works with men from HMP Manchester and women from HMP Styal before they are released from prison, at the point of release and as they settle back into their community. Early evaluation has been extremely encouraging and there is a strong case for rolling out the programme more widely.

In view of the project’s success, Addaction and Heineken UK believe these results should be disseminated to a wider audience in order to demonstrate the importance of this form of service provision, and for the issue of alcohol misuse among the prison population to be investigated further.

This report lays out the commission’s findings and demonstrates why they create a cause for concern. With the introduction of the Offender Rehabilitation Bill in early 2013 there is some recognition of the problem and the focus on rehabilitation is welcomed. However, as is often the case, alcohol is once again sidelined despite the known size of the problem and the correlation between alcohol use and offending. The government must address this issue if it wants to reduce reoffending, by supporting those people who suffer from an alcohol problem through their prison sentence and most crucially from the prison gate and back into the community. The government needs to set out commissioning structures that demand proper and consistent through-the-gate services that specifically address alcohol use.

The key findings of the commission come from a questionnaire which was published in the pages of Inside Time, the national newspaper for prisoners. The questionnaire asked prisoners whether they saw themselves as having an alcohol problem and if alcohol played a part in the crime for which they had been convicted. It also looked into different forms of treatment available to prisoners and whether they had been informed about any support available while inside prison and also of any ‘continuity of support’ available upon and after release to help them resettle back in the community.