Prison doctors' leaders today urged the Government to do more to tackle the drug crisis in English and Welsh prisons following a new report from the UK Drug Policy Commission (UKDPC).
The UKDPC report - Reducing drug use, reducing re-offending - highlights a number of serious concerns about the prison system's approach to drugs and the standard of rehabilitation services which it says are often not meeting even minimum standards.
Responding to the report, Dr Clare Jenkins, Chairman of the BMA's Civil and Public Services Committee, said:
"Prison doctors will sadly recognise the depressing situation described by the UK Drug Policy Commission's report and sympathise with many of its conclusions.
"Drug rehabilitation programmes are often poorly funded and not adequately linked with community based services. Any drug dependent prisoner should be monitored and supported after release so that their addiction does not lead them back to a life of crime.
"Unfortunately, support services in the community are often difficult to organise and access. In some areas they are practically non-existent.
"There is the added problem that many prisoners have a ready supply of illegal narcotics. This makes it impossible for prison doctors to wean existing addicts off their habit and shockingly puts vulnerable prisoners in danger of becoming addicts while in custody."
Dr George Fernie, Chairman of the BMA's Forensic Medicine Committee, said:
"A large number of prisoners enter custody dependent on illegal drugs and because of current failures many of these individuals will be part of the two thirds of prisoners who re-offend within two years of release.
"There have been improvements in some areas of prison healthcare recently. But the Government must renew its efforts to combat a problem that is potentially putting the public at risk from drug dependent individuals with no support or monitoring"