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Date posted: 14 October 2013
Hundreds of Victorian prisoners are receiving methadone treatment for addictions to heroin and other drugs. Figures for the Opioid substitution therapy program run in 11 Victorian jails revealed in some prisons one in four inmates receive methadone treatment. In January this year 27% of prisoners at the maximum security Port Phillip Prison were on the program. At maximum security women's jail the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre, 25% of prisoners received methadone or buprenorphine treatments.
Corrections Victoria Spokeswoman, Rachel Tosolini, said the program had 'proven effective at reducing cravings, stabilising users in treatment and reducing the demand for illicit drugs. It also reduces the transmission of blood borne viruses among prisoners and helps to make the prison environment safer for anyone who works, visits, or is incarcerated in Victorian prisons,' Ms Tosolini said.
The figures showed 838 prisoners were on the program in January, up from 764 at the same time in 2012. It was a 20% increase in the number of drug-addicted inmates on methadone in Victorian prisons since January 2010. However, Ms Tosolini said the proportion of inmates on the program, compared to the total prison population had remained steady at about 17%.
Opposition Corrections Spokeswoman, Jill Hennessy, said drug addiction was a significant contributor to those cycling through the criminal justice system and programs in and out of prison needed better resources. 'I'm really struck with how serious the issue of drug addiction in prisons is, that our prison population is clearly a very drug-addicted population. Are drug addictions being successfully treated and how long are people on these drug treatment programs ... if offenders are on them for very long periods of time then they're not necessarily being successful,' Ms Hennessy said.
Anex drug research and health service Chief Executive, John Ryan, said ORT treatment was good for prisoners as it reduced cravings for illicit drugs but treatment also needed to concentrate on mental health rehabilitation. 'People need help in relation to their psychological issues but they also need help in terms of getting some healthy goals in their life. 'People in jail with drug and alcohol addiction are the vast majority of people in the prison system. We all know that we're locking up people that commit crimes most often driven by their addictions,' Mr Ryan said.
Prisoners can continue an existing methadone treatment program or start a new one under the ORT guidelines. The Justice Department also pays the $5 per day pharmacy dispensing fee for the program for the first 30 days after a prisoner is released from jail.
Source: Herald Sun