Drug addicts get cold turkey compensation

THOUSANDS of pounds is being paid out in compensation to drug addict prisoners being forced to go cold turkey in Welsh jails, a Wales on Sunday investigation has revealed.
While many victims of crime receive paltry sums in compensation after the turmoil they have been through, the Prison Service is being forced to pay out to jailbirds having to go without drugs. It followed claims the practice amounts to assault and a breach of human rights.
Almost £11,500 was paid out to three drug addicts in Cardiff and Parc prisons in the past year alone.The sum paid to addicts was part of more than £50,000 paid out in compensation to prisoners in Welsh jails last year for a number of reasons.
The Ministry of Justice said they had to settle a number of compensation claims for prisoners due to “the way they went through detox”. But the payouts have been fiercely criticised, with one MP describing it as “a lose-lose situation for the taxpayer”.
The settlements originate from a test case two years ago when six claimants from across Wales and England were given the green light to sue the Home Office They said once in jail, and under the responsibility of the Prison Service in England and Wales, they were made to go cold turkey – where drugs are withdrawn or cut short.
Our probe comes amid increasing evidence convicts are exploiting human rights laws to make a profit from their time in jail. The figures were finally released after Wales on Sunday complained to the National Offender Management Service following seven months of heel-dragging by officials.
Conservative MP David Davies said: “Not only are they getting compensation, they are being funded by the taxpayer to put these claims in. It’s a lose-lose situation for the taxpayer. “Cold turkey is not all it’s cracked up to be. People seem to have got their ideas from Trainspotting.
“Actually, most informed medical opinion says taking alcohol away from an alcoholic can be a far more difficult experience for them. “I’ve got no sympathy for them, I’m afraid. Nobody forces them to get into crack in the first place.”
Peter Stoker, Director of the National Drug Prevention Alliance, said he thought lawyers were taking advantage of the system and big changes needed to be made. Prisoners should “absolutely” not be able to get drugs in jail, he added. He said: “They’ve been put up to it. There are a lot of liberal lawyers and organisations around and this is the kind of thing that they will come up with.
“My gut feeling is like a lot of people’s gut feeling, that I think there has to be a question as to what extent somebody who is convicted has foregone many of their human rights by committing the crimes they did in the first place. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with trying to wean prisoners off drugs as soon as possible. “I find it as wacky as the general public do. All I can say is I think it’s now generating enough concern that it’s time the Government and the Prison Service looked at it again.”
But the charity Drugscope defended the practice, saying the Prison Service had a “duty of care” to prisoners with a drug addiction. Chief Executive Martin Barnes said: “It is clearly established in law that prisoners are entitled to the same standard of health care that they would receive in the community; the medical care received by claimants under the original action had fallen well below acceptable standards. After seeking legal advice, the Home Office accepted full liability in all the cases. “It is clear, however, that short, sharp, enforced detoxification is still the experience for many entering prison, even for those who were in receipt of a prescribed substitute drug such as methadone prior to custody. “Not only can enforced detoxification be extremely unpleasant, it does not mean that someone will remain free of drugs or their dependency.”
The Ministry of Justice said: “Each compensation claim received by the Prison Service is treated on its individual merits. Legal advice is sought and, on the basis of that advice, a decision is made on whether or not the claim should be defended. “We cannot therefore comment on individual cases or the reasons that they were settled, as the terms of each settlement vary and may be subject to confidentiality clauses.”
Source: Wales On Sunday : Jan 20 2008

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