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Page last updated at 09:48 GMT, Monday, 10 December 2012

Addict: Blind eye turned to drugs culture in jail

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Over the last few years, several bodies have published reports suggesting that Britain has lost the so-called war on drugs.

The Home Affairs Committee has produced a report that says the government should consider a major shift in drugs law. It could mean possession of even hard drugs, such as heroin and crack cocaine, would no longer be a criminal offence.

Mark Spooner has been an active drug addict for the last 27 years and works alongside treatment services in Birmingham.

Speaking to the Today programme, he said: "My first experience with drugs was at the age of 16 with cannabis, which quickly progressed over the years.

"Going to jail didn't deter me and it didn't deter the multitude of addicts that I've met along the way. There's a drugs culture in jail so it's easy to feel accepted and continue.

"There's a blind eye turned to drugs in jail and it's readily available, and there is no educational treatment around drugs."

Niamh Eastwood, executive director of Release - the national centre of expertise on drugs and drugs law - told the Today programme: "The idea that we are criminalising people who use drugs because of serious health and emotional problems seems ridiculous.

"We need to have an evidence-based drug policy, and arguably at the moment what we have is a reactionary and a tabloid-led drug policy."

The Home Office Minister, Jeremy Browne, said: "I think it's a thought-provoking report. We are always open to new ideas.

"We acknowledge that there is a constantly changing situation with drugs, and we need to respond to that. But I think it's right to also acknowledge that there is substantial benefit from the approach that we are pursuing and we have made significant progress."


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