Incorporating Comorbidity E-News

Media Release, VAADA: Prison expansion a rudderless policy

Thursday 29 November
The Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association (VAADA) today calls on the Victorian Government to expand the drug courts state-wide and increase alcohol and other drug treatment in and out of prisons to reduce the demand related pressure on the prison system outlined by the Victorian Auditor-General.
VAADA concurs with the Auditor-General’s finding that ‘the provision of services and rehabilitation programs has not kept pace with the increasing prisoner population…’
Sam Biondo, Executive Officer of VAADA, calls on the government to use the sector alcohol and other drug treatment sector reform and Whole-of Government strategy as devices to drive cost effective measures which will increase the wellbeing, health and prosperity of all Victorians’.
Mr Biondo says, ‘the Auditor-General has asserted that our prisons in the near future will not be able to cater for the forecasted increased demand; increasing drug treatment and rolling out drug courts state-wide will reduce demand by ameliorating a number of the drivers of criminal offending’.
Mr Biondo continues, ‘research indicates that over half of prisoners are at risk of alcohol related harm and that over 70% of prisoners had used illicit drugs in the past 12 months. Clearly a moderate proportion of prisoners would benefit from accessing treatment and evidence shows that engaging in alcohol and other drug treatment reduces the likelihood of engaging in criminal behaviour’.
Although the Victorian Drug Court (which operates only in Dandenong) has not been evaluated in over half a decade. However, the most recent report which saw it transition from pilot to a permanent status outlined the following benefits:
  •  improvement in the welfare of drug court participants;
  • The rate of full time employed participants doubled;
  • participants were 23% less likely to reoffend than prisoners; and
  •  A $2.87M investment in the drug court returned economic benefits of $16.65M.
 Mr Biondo says, ‘this evidence indicates that the Drug Court model is cost effective, reduces recidivism and increases the rate of employment for participants – all of these factors collectively drive down crime and make Victoria a safer state and reduce the necessity for engaging in the expensive and harmful enterprise of building more prisons’.
Greater to access to alcohol and other drug treatment, both in and out of the prison system, combined with a state-wide drug court would alleviate the demand issues on the prison system. The involvement of other health, education and welfare services is also crucial in driving down recidivism, such as housing, employment support and access to education, all of which could be funded further through the savings achieved by cutting prisoner numbers. Further benefits would be accrued through investment in post release care, as the risk of death is disproportionately high within the first four weeks post release.
VAADA is the peak body that represents over 100 Alcohol and other Drug services across Victoria. On a daily basis these services are dealing with the effects of harmful alcohol and other drug consumption.
For more information or to arrange an interview please contact Sam Biondo on 0414 974 121 for comment or if unavailable, David Taylor on 0413 914 206.