New drug recovery wings aim to get prisoners clean

Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen was given access to a 'drug recovery wing' in Wolverhampton

There is a special unit at HMP Oakwood in Wolverhampton which is designed to keep drugs out from the rest of the prison.

The unit manager Jodie Thomas says prisoners have to apply to get a place and are searched rigorously before joining it. She says even their documents are photocopied to prevent narcotic soaked paper being smuggled in.

The Drug Recovery Unit is a model for the kind of thing Justice Secretary Dominic Raab is introducing more of. He is concerned not only with illegal drugs, but also the use of drug substitutes like methadone.

Carl Dinnen talks to 'James' - one of the drug recovery unit's success stories.

He told ITV News: “We need to get people off heroin and methadone."

One governor told me the biggest problem in prisons is that we're doling out what is effectively a drug in methadone.

"I think people have languished on it for too long.”

James - not his real name - is one of HMP Oakwood’s success stories. He ended up in prison after carrying out armed robberies to fund his heroin addiction. Having recovered he now coaches other prisoners and is looking forward to release.

“I’m a completely different person," he says.

“When my mum and dad came to see me they were so proud. They hadn’t told me that since I was a child. And my old boss is giving me a job.”

Campaigners have welcomed the expansion of the units, so long as they are properly staffed of course. Julie Muir of the Forward Trust warns that it only takes one prisoner with the wrong intentions to ruin a unit, so staffing and screening are key.

The Ministry of Justice says £120 million is going into this and other projects to tackle drug-fuelled crime.

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