Do prisoners get help for drug problems while they are in prison? 

Every prison offers some support for people with drug problems. Some prisons have their own rehabilitation programmes. Under certain circumstances prisoners may be transferred to another prison if the treatment they need is not available where they are.

What is a CARAT Team?

The Prison Service has set up CARAT teams which offer help to every prisoner who is identified as having a drug problem. Each prison has a designated CARAT team. CARAT stands for:

  • Counselling: someone to talk to
  • Assessment: making sure the
    treatment they are offered is appropriate
  • Referral: arranging for a
    prisoner to get help from other services
    when necessary
  • Advice: making sure they
    have clear information about drug use and
    the treatments available
  • Throughcare: planning for support on release

Will the prison know if someone has a drug problem?

Every prisoner is seen by a doctor or nurse when they first arrive at prison, and they will hopefully pick up on any health issues the prisoner has at that time. They will usually be aware of the symptoms of withdrawal, for example, and common health problems associated with drug use. The prisoner also has a chance to raise any health concerns they may have. The prisoner may also have to provide a urine sample, which will be tested for the presence of drugs.

Do they get any support while withdrawing?

If a prisoner needs medical supervision while withdrawing they may be admitted to the health care wing, or detox unit, if the prison has one. If the medical staff feel it appropriate, they will prescribe medication to help alleviate withdrawal symptoms.

What if the prisoner asks me to take drugs in to him/her on a visit?

Taking drugs in to a prison is against the law and is a serious offence. You will be arrested and could receive a prison sentence, and in any case will be banned from visiting for a minimum of three months. The inmate will also face disciplinary action which may affect their category, privileges and prison placement. 

Drug dogs

When you visit prison they may have a drug dog, which is trained to recognise the scent of a range of drugs. They can do this just by walking past someone. The dog will be on a lead and controlled by a trained officer. If the dog detects the scent of drugs on a person it has been trained to indicate this by sitting down or standing in front of them.

If you are picked out by a drug dog you may be searched to check if you are carrying drugs. If you are then you will be arrested. If you are not carrying drugs you may still have to visit in closed conditions. If a child is found to have drugs on them the parent or carer with them will be held responsible. 

Can I take in medication?

If you have medication that you have to take with you, keep it in the bottle or packet you got from your pharmacist, clearly marked with your name. You will have to leave it in a locker unless it is something that may be needed urgently like an inhaler and even then you may have to leave it with an officer on duty in the visits room. 

For more information about drug use and what help is available visit our page on other help organisations.