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Cost-Benefit Economics of Methadone for prisoners

An academic exercise conducted by drug researchers has revealed that enabling controlled doses of methadone to the prison inmates who are addicted to heroin, //would serve a dual purpose – of bringing down the rates of reoffence and the cost of locking up prisoners for a year will come down drastically.

National Health and Medical Research Council sponsored this analysis, which is perhaps the first ever cost-benefit study of a prison methadone program, which said that treating a single inmate for one year with methadone cost $3234.

According to estimates, it costs about $176 for just one day of an inmate’s lock up expenditure, which is borne by the government - or about $64,000 a year. In contrast, methadone programs end up taking care of costs for a whole year, in the event of a prisoner’s jail time being knocked even by a mere 20 days.

The study was conducted by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre and the Centre for Health Economics Research and Evaluation.

Co-author Kate Dolan spoke about a previous NDARC study that had revealed that only about 23% of prisoners were sent back to jail, after methadone treatment had been administered to inmates for eight months. The proportion was 97% among prisoners who did not receive methadone doses while in jail.

Ms Dolan, while recommending that the NSW jail methadone program should ideally be broadened from 1000 inmates to at least 1500, said "Ideally, (methadone programs) should be available for everyone who needs them, but I'm being realistic - I know how hard it is (to increase them).If we could get to 2000, that would be fantastic."

ANCD executive officer Gino Vumbaca while seconding the NDARC recommendation for methadone programs to be expanded said other therapies, such as counseling and drug-free rehabilitation, should be made available. "We would assume there's more than 1 per cent of Queensland's prisoners who have a drug problem.If yo u are going to spend $60,000 a year to put someone in jail, you might as well spend a couple of extra grand to treat their drug problem."

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